At the Wheel of the "Wisdom
The Sea Gypsy
Edward A. Salisbury
Merian G. Cooper
N^wYork & London
TDje Knickerbocker Press
Edward A. Salisbury
Made in the United States of America
[ KNOW of no good reason why she should have been
called the Wisdom unless it was because the men on
her were wise enough not to stay in cities when there
was the open sea before them and all the world to roam.
Or perhaps it was because the ship itself was as wise a
little vessel as ever sailed when it came to knowing the
ways of the sea.
At Lloyd's she was probably listed as an 8 8 -ton sailing
yacht, with auxiliary gasolene engine. But if she could
have spoken she would have denied this prosaic de-
scription, for if there ever was a ship in search of all the
romance and adventure to be found in the queer corners
of the earth this was one. She followed no regular
travelled route nor any schedule of time, but sailed
where and when she pleased. In fact, if she could have
spoken and you had asked her to what category of ves-
sels she belonged, she would have been quite surprised
at your ignorance and said, "Why, of course, I'm a sea
I. — Murderers' Island n
II. — SOMALILAND TO ABYSSINIA • • • 39
III. — The Last of the Feudal Princes . . 54
IV. — Guardians of the Lion of Judah . . 75
V. — "As in Solomon's Day" .... 97
VI. — The Lost Sea People of Sumatra . .113
VII.— The Beast Men 146
VIII. — Head-hunting through the Magic Eye . 165
IX. — The Son of a Cannibal King . . .189
X. — America's Happy Isles .... 205
XI. — Lepers — and Women — and Fish . . 220
XII. — That Calm Red Sea . . . .231
XIII. — In the Port to Paradise .... 244
XIV. — A Prince of Islam 265
XV. — The Last Landfall of the Sea Gypsy . 285
At the Wheel of the "Wisdom" Frontispiece
An Andaman Island Bowman . . . .18
Primitive Negritos of the Andaman Islands . 24
An Andaman Island Warrior . . . .28
An Andaman Island Widow with her Husband's
Skull 3 2
A Musical Instrument of Somaliland . 42
In Abyssinia 54
RasTafari in Court Costume 70
At the Wheel of the "Wisdom" ... 76
Abyssinian Chieftain 90
Tample Gateway in the Island of Bali, Dutch
East Indies 114
On Lake Toba, Sumatra 120
Great Stone Image in the Jungle near Palem-
bang, Sumatra 126
Rice Terraces in Java 132
Temple of Borobudur, Java . . . .138
On the Decks of the "Wisdom" in New
A Solomon Island Warrior . . . .168
Solomon Island War Canoe . . . .176
Head Hunters only a few Years Ago . .180
The "Wisdom" in the South Seas . . .190
A Girl of Samoa 212
The Sliding Falls, Samoa . . . .216
At the Capstan of the "Wisdom" . . . 236
In the Port of Jidda 244
The Mecca Gate at Jidda .... 248
A Sky-Scraper in Jidda 252
A Water Carrier of the East . . , 258
A Street in Jidda 268
The So-Called "Tomb of Eve" near Jidda . 276
Pilgrims near Mecca 280
The "Wisdom" in Savona Harbor, Italy, where
she was Burned 286
The Sea Gypsy
The Sea Gypsy
r T 1 HE song of the two Fijian boys singing up on the
forecastle suddenly stopped — abruptly in the mid-
dle of a note. Then in the dim light of the hot dawn I
could just make out the figure of Andy, the New Cale-
donian half-caste, his powerful gorilla-like arms swing-
ing almost below his knees, as he came aft toward where
I was standing by Little Johnny, the wharf waif I had
picked up two years before at Tahiti.
"Land, Cap'n," he said.
I looked toward where he was pointing ; and there far
away on the horizon I could just make out what seemed
dark shadows on a purple sea. Landfall! No sailor
ever grows too old to forget the thrill of the first sight of
land after long days at sea.
"What place that, Cap'n?" asked Little Johnny.
"Murderers' Island," 1 answered.
The boy almost dropped his grip on the wheel.
12 The Sea Gypsy
"What you say, Cap'n? You mean plenty fellow who
kill men live here?"
I grinned to myself, and said impressively, "Johnny,
on that island there are more than ten thousand mur-
derers. And what's more, Johnny, in the jungle are
naked coal-black dwarfs, who kill everybody they see
with bows and arrows."
Johnny said nothing for a minute, but from watching
his face I could see he hadn't been so scared since the
day when Sam, my former black cook, brandishing a
butcher knife, had chased him up the mainmast for
stealing grub from the galley. Finally the little
Tahitian shook his head: "Well, Cap'n, Johnny he no
go ashore there. He stay on ship." And Johnny kept
his word. During our two weeks' stay on the islands
he never left the boat.
But Andy, too, had heard the title "Murderers'
Island," and there was a great buzzing of talk forward
as the watch began to tumble up on deck at the word of
land in sight. This crew of mine staring out toward the
distant shore made a strange appearance, as strange, I
think, as ever was collected on one ship. White and
brown and yellow, most of them bare to the waist and
with the loose skirt-like sarong or paren falling to the
knee, all barefoot. Beside Little Johnny and Andy,
there were Big Johnny, the Bos 'un, the son of a Fijian
Princess and a Scotch trader, a perfectly built specimen
of manhood; old Joe, a wizened Malay; Jean, a pearl
diver from the Paumotos, small, silent and hardy; Jack,
a Fijian bushman; Red from Seattle; and "Chu" and
Murderers Island 13
"Chin" and "Chow," three Chinamen from Singapore
who had replaced my black boys brought from the
States. The afterguard had come on deck, also, al-
most as lightly clad as the crew, for most of them had
discarded the pa jama habit for a sleeping garment for
that of the sarong. There was Taylor, the navigator, a
California engineer, small, wiry, a wonderful seaman
and possessed of the calmest nerves under difficulty
and danger I have ever seen; McNeil, the first officer,
a big straight ex-Andover and Yale athlete; El Burg-
hard, a hardy young ex-Columbia man; Cooper, from
Florida, who had been an airman in France and
Poland; Dresser the Dane, just come from three years
spent in the Malayan jungle; and Zeller from Los
Angeles. Of these all only Taylor and Mac and Red
had started the voyage with me, when almost three
years before I had sailed from Los Angeles in the little
88 ketch-rigged sea gypsy Wisdom to wander up and
down the strange waters of the world. I had sailed
then with a white crew, except for the cook and mess-
boy. But one by one they had dropped away until now
I had this queer collection of sailors.
Of all this crew I think the Chinamen and Little
Johnny were the only ones who were really afraid at the
name of Murderers' Island. Though the proper title
of this island group in the Bay of Bengal was the
Andamans, they could be called Murderers' Island in
dead fact, for the only settlement on the entire group
was at Port Blair, and at Port Blair the British have
their convict colony for all the convicted but unhung
14 The Sea Gypsy
murderers for the hundred and one races of India and
Burma. The Sailing Directions also contain a warn-
ing for mariners who should be wrecked on this coast
to 'ware of the natives, for outside of the colony of
murderers all the rest of the island are covered with
dense jungle, inhabited only by a race of tiny black
pigmies, noted for their hostility toward strangers.
Even the old Mohammedan Arab traders, those
Jesuits of the East in daring and determination, dared
not venture to them. It is only in the last half century
that the real facts of the inhabitants of this island group
which for hundreds of years has lain on one of the main
sea routes, has been known to the outside world. The
races of the East still maintain that this is the land of
As we approached, we saw no signs of life along these
island hills — no villages, no fisher boats, no living
beings. Only the dark jungle which ran down to the
silent sea. But the charts showed a harbor and, as the
sun was coming up blazing red against the cloudless
sky, we sighted a break in the jungle. We had come to
the entrance to Murderers' Island.
We sailed in, and saw that a tiny island hill, dotted
with a score of red bungalows, lay off the mainland.
We swung in around this islet, and there, a quarter of a
mile away on the mainland, on a low, grass-covered hill
in a clearing on the edge of the jungle, stood a huge,
square, forbidding pile of red brick. I looked through
Murderers' Island 15
my binoculars and saw that every window was iron-
barred. On the tower which crowned the stern struc-
ture, there were leaning motionless on their rifles two
bearded brown men in khaki, who wore the turbans of
the Sikhs. It was a prison. Around and about the
prison, I could just make out through the trees the
thatched roofs of villages.
On the little island, a signal-flag fluttered up, telling
us to anchor. A rowboat came alongside, and a slow-
speaking Scotchman, an officer of the Indian marines,
stepped on board. He was the Port Officer. One of
my companions and I went ashore with him and walked
to a low bungalow at the water's edge. This was the
club. Breakfasting in its big central room was a one-
armed Major, wearing on his tunic the ribbon of the
D. S. O. As we were served with cool drinks, the Major
asked us our impressions of the Andaman Islands.
"We haven't had much of a chance to get any as
yet," I told him, and asked what there was to see.
"Well, not much," he replied. "Only about ten
thousand murderers. You know Port Blair, this place,
is where they send into exile the murderers from all over
India. We have 'em of all kinds here." He called,
1 ' Boy. ' ' Someone outside answered loudly and shrilly,
"Sahib" and in trotted a bare-footed Indian to replen-
ish our glasses. The Major laughed. "That boy is a
I thought to myself, "What a life!" And the
Major apparently read my thought from my expression.
"Oh, it's not so bad as that," he said. "Wish I could
1 6 The Sea Gypsy
stay here, by Jove, but no such luck. I'm ordered
back to Burma. Now here comes a lucky man. He's
been here twenty years." He pointed at a dry little
man in spectacles who came in, was introduced and
passed on into another room.
"That chap's a forester. Dane or something by
birth, but he saved a British ship. He was the en-
gineer. The government asked him what he wanted as
a reward and he chose a permanent billet here. Lucky
The Port Officer, who had gone out, came in to say
that the Governor was waiting to see us. As we
plodded up the winding gravel road to the big mansion
on top of the hill, we passed a two-wheeled carriage.
It had no horses, but six sweating, half -naked natives
were pulling heavily at the shafts. By its side walked
a Sikh guard. Half reclining in the carriage-seat was a
woman, her face almost as pale as her cool white linen
dress. It was the work of the tropical sun, that pallor.
I had been long accustomed to recognize its disastrous
effect on the complexions of white women.
"A white woman living in the midst of ten thousand
murderers," I murmured to myself. "Unhappy crea-
ture." But as I looked closely at her, as she returned
our bow, I could see no marks of discontent. Rather
she had the air of one to whom life has been good — very
At the door of the Governor's mansion, a great white
parrot screamed an unfriendly greeting. Several In-
dian servants met us and led us through a long hall,
Murderers' Island 17
hung with queer bows and arrows, to a library. Its
windows overlooked the great red prison across the little
bay. I wondered what sort of man ruled over this
colony of turbident convicts. I created a lionlike figure
with bold features and hard eyes. The door opened
and, instead, there came toward us a stooped, middle-
aged man, the type one sees, book in hand, wandering
under the elms of a college campus. He said in the low
voice of the cultured Englishman, "Welcome to the
This was Colonel Beadon, with almost despotic
powers. With a handful of whites and a company or so
of soldiery, he rules over the thousands of criminals,
most of whom are allowed to live quite freely in villages
of their own. The prison across the bay was used only
for the most desperate characters, and seditionists and
new prisoners. This bookish Governor seemed to take
the convicts as a matter of course, but even he appeared
gripped by the mystery of a race of pigmies who in-
habited the jungle. One tribe, he said, roamed the
forest only a few miles from the colony, but could not
be captured or hardly seen. The only sign the colony
ever had of them was when sometimes at night they
crept out of the jungle, killed a few convicts and
escaped back into their impenetrable wilderness.
When the Governor spoke of these queer little jungle
people, his voice lost a little of its tone of semi-boredom.
But I was much more interested just then in the life
of these whites I had seen walking unarmed among the
murderer convicts. So I asked for more information.
18 The Sea Gypsy
"Are all these Indians wandering around, apparently
quite freely, really murderers?"
He smiled. "Not quite all," he answered. "We
have some famous dacoits (bandits) and a few political
prisoners, but the majority are murderers." He
pointed at the musty row of files which lined one side
of the room. "In those books," he said, "are the
records of enough romances to keep a dozen story
writers at work for life. But perhaps the editors might
not print the yarns; for they all have the same tragic
climax — a killing and then exile to this place."
"But if all these men are murderers, isn't there great
danger for you whites walking about unarmed?"
The Governor looked up as if a little surprised.
"Why, no. There are a few — er — accidents now and
then, but no real danger. No."
The accidents to which he referred are of the kind
that happened to a Viceroy of India who visited the
island one winter many years ago. It was a Moham-
medan convict who stabbed him to death in the midst
of his retinue.
I found this same attitude among all the white rulers
of this strange place. This little group — not more
than fifty in all — after the fashion of the English, took
their bizarre surroundings as the most natural thing in
the world. Instead of worrying about either convicts or
savages, they had built themselves the club where we
had met the Major — when half a dozen Englishmen
settle anywhere they must have a club.
An Andaman Island Bowman
Murderers Island 21
This club was a delight, with card-, billiard- and
lounging-rooms. Part of the sea which washed up to
its doors was fenced off from the sharks to make an
enormous outdoor swimming-pool. A tennis-court
was near by, and, wonder of wonders, a golf-course.
These rulers lived in spacious bungalows on the hills.
Big windows opened on every side with the sea-breezes
ever blowing through. They had literally swarms of
servants. And the servants had one peculiarity — they
were all murderers.
This I did not know until one dark night I went to
dine with an officer and his wife, who live on the main-
land on a hill above the convict villages. It was pitch-
black when we landed, and we could just make out by
torchlight a carriage drawn by six brown fellows, naked
except for loin-cloths. We got in and our human
horses started up a winding road. We could see no-
thing but the glimmer of the lantern on the naked brown
backs before us. We stopped at last before a bril-
liantly lighted two-story bungalow-like house. Half
a dozen servants, dressed in bright colors, were drawn
up at the door. In front of these was standing
After a dinner served by an Indian butler with
numerous aides, as we were sitting in the many-
windowed drawing-room, having coffee, I remarked to
our hostess that she did not seem to be bothered by the
"Well, I do manage to get enough of them," she
22 The Sea Gypsy
"All convicts, I suppose," said I.
"Yes, indeed," said she, smiling.
"I don't suppose you ever take in any murderers," I
"No murderers!" she answered in mock indignation.
"I wouldn't have anything else. You don't suppose I
would tolerate a lot of thieves and robbers running
about my house. No indeed, give me a nice honest
murderer for a servant any time."
I thought a minute. "And those fellows who
dragged us up the hill, are they murderers, too?" I
She smiled again and nodded yes. And when it was
time to say good night, we rode down the hill through
the night in the same rig with the same team.
To me, those women of the Andamans will never
seem quite real. They are figures out of a dream.
There are only about a dozen in all. Each has her own
bodyguard, a great, bearded, uniformed brown Sikh,
with gun and bayonet, without whom she is never al-
lowed to go out. When her husband is not at home,
which is the better part of the day, her bodyguard must
stay near her. Then, too, the Indian maid who
dresses her hair each day may be a murderess serving a
life-sentence. Also, though she has the luxury of a
private carriage, there are no horses for it, and she uses
the same kind of a team of six murderers as the one
which took us up the hill that night. That white-faced
woman, then, whom we had first seen with the con-
tented look on her face, had had a team of murderers!
Murderers' Island 23
But soon we became so accustomed to seeing these white
women riding about to pay their calls, drawn by mur-
derer human horses, that we came to think little of it.
And these women "carry on" happily, as do their
men. From four to six each day is the time for sports,
when, as the burning tropical sun begins to seek the
horizon, they play at tennis and golf. Afterward comes
a plunge in the ocean pool, and finally cool drinks in the
room set aside for the ladies, before going home to dress
for the little dinners they delight in giving one another.
But in contrast to the life of the white woman is that
of the brown and yellow and black-skinned women
murderers I occasionally saw walking along the sun-
baked roads. If it is woman's chief desire to be de-
sired by man, then these women convict exiles should
be the happiest of creatures. But I don't think they
are. They are only a few among ten thousand men,
most of whom have already killed because of love and
jealousy. They are hot-blooded, desperate men —
these Indian killers. They are Orientals and to them
women are the beginning and the end of all human de-
lights — better than the tinkle of gold coins one against
the other; better than the blood of an enemy on the
knife-blade. And here in exile these desperate men
must forego the taste of the honey of life.
However, a small percentage get women in a most
peculiar way. When women murderers are sent to the
island, Colonel Beadon has them lined up on Saturdays
and put on the marriage-market. Then the exiles
gather about in fierce crowds and bid for the treasures.
24 The Sea Gypsy
Only a dozen odd can be successful. When these carry-
away their brides, they are followed by raging glares
from the disappointed suitors. Too often tragedy fol-
lows. When her husband is away in the fields, the
woman finds a hundred lovers ready to dare all for one
soft glance from her eye. Then comes a knife-thrust
in the dark, or an open killing of both woman and lover
and the end — with the hanging of the husband. The
hanging is sure. The mild-mannered, bookish man,
with whom Cooper used to play at chess, knows that
the safety of all rests on swift punishment. Only a few
days at most, and then up in the great red prison on the
hill the gallows-trap is sprung ; there is a tolling of the
bell, and all of Murderers' Island knows that their soft-
voiced Governor is still the Master of Life and Death.
I saw this gallows once when I visited the prison, and
learned to my surprise that we were not the only
Americans on the island. In the prison was a man
who, though he might not strictly be called an Ameri-
can, for he was a Mexican half-breed, had come from
the United States. He was a native of southern
Texas. He was the most hated, the most feared, and
the most despised of all the prisoners. Men spat on the
ground his feet touched, yet cringed before him as if he
had the evil eye. He was the official hangman. How
he came to be a life convict in this queer island prison
on the other side of the world I did not learn. But there
he was, receiving ten rupees a head for each man he
hanged and some lesser sum for his work at the whip-
ping-post. There was in the prison also another man
Primitive Negritos of the Andaman Islands
Murderers' Island 27
who had lived long in America. He was a Sikh, who
had been in California for many years. When we told
him good-by, his eyes seemed to look over the seas
and see the orange groves and smiling fields of that dis-
tant land, as he said to us: "You are going back to
America. Back to America. Oh, if I could only see
it once more!" There were tears in his eyes as we
turned and went away.
In the prison, too, I remember one old, bowed
convict who wore around his neck the tag which
showed he had three times made a break for liberty.
Nevermore would he see the light of day outside of
prison- walls. Upon these men who try to escape, the
punishment is ruthless. They are put back into the
prison, and there they stay until the end. This old man,
a Burmese, and a woodsman, who knew the stars, had
braved the cyclone-swept Bay of Bengal in a canoe he
had burned out of a log. He was picked up three-
quarters of the way to safety, paddling gamely on,
though half dead from exposure and thirst. Indeed,
few of the murderers ever escape, despite their freedom
from guards and prison-walls. If they try the sea, an
upturned canoe marks their end. If they try the
forest, they are usually found with an arrow in their
backs. But sometimes they are never heard of again,
and only the jungle pigmies can tell how they died.
In all the years the English have lived on the An-
damans, they have never been able to do anything with
28 The Sea Gypsy
the Jawaras, as is called the tribe of the Andamanese
dwarfs on this prison island. These pigmies resist
both force and kindness. Just before we arrived, a
punitive expedition had been out after them, as the
result of a raid, and had spent three miserable weeks in
the jungle without even coming in contact with them.
Sometimes, however, Burmese dacoits among the con-
victs are given long knives and a bag and turned loose
in the jungle. Once in a while they come back with a
diminutive black head in the bag and receive a reward
of a few rupees, but more often they never return.
I became tremendously interested in these pigmies,
for I learned that they were among the most primitive
of all humans. If it is true, as some anthropologists
believe, that life first came into being in southern Asia,
then these little aborigines may be forerunners of man-
kind ; for it is probable that they inhabited this part of
the world before the migrations swept down from
southern Asia and obliterated all traces of them except
in three remote localities. In two of these, one a wild
spot in the Philippines, and the other a district in the
central part of the Malay Peninsula, they have lost
many of their original traits by contact with other
peoples. On the Andaman Islands alone have they
Though no contact can be made with the An-
damanese who live on the island of Port Blair, occa-
sionally some one of the wild little fellows from some of
the other islands paddles up to a spot three miles from
the prison, where the British have had a hut erected for
An Andaman Island Warrior
Murderers' Island 31
them. A few years ago, before the British gave up in
despair of ever civilizing them, the little forester, whom
I had met in the club, had been the officer charged with
attempting negotiations. With him I went to this
hut, and was lucky enough to find several families. A
half dozen were standing at the water's edge when our
launch chugged up.
I thought at first that the reports of their smallness
had been exaggerated, but as we stepped ashore, I
realized that they are indeed dwarfs — so perfectly
formed, however, that it was not until I stood beside
them that I realized how small. One of the tiny
women, not more than four feet, three inches in height,
caught my attention immediately. She had what ap-
peared to be a huge white ornament hanging about her
neck. I went closer and almost jumped with astonish-
ment. The ornament was a ghastly human skull,
white and grinning against her bare black breasts.
The forester laughed. "The women wear the skulls
of their dead husbands as loving souvenirs," he said.
And then he told us how, when a man dies, the little
people blow on his face to say good-by, bury him, and
then desert the camp in which they are living. After
several months they come back, dig up the bones and
wash them in the sea. Finally they hold a dance in
honor of the dead man's skull, paint it with red ocher
and white clay and give it and the jaw-bones to the
chief mourners, who wear them hung about their necks
on fiber strings, like huge stones on a necklace.
Another woman we saw squatting on the ground,
32 The Sea Gypsy
apparently examining her child's arm. But when we
went forward to see her, she was cutting a row of little
cuts around it — the boy's body was covered with rows
of scars. The Andamanese believe that every child is
born with evil spirits within him. So the mother
every two or three months lets the spirits escape
through these cuts. As a result, all the men and women
have their entire bodies covered with scars.
At the request of our forester, the Andamanese held
a mock marriage ceremony. Two who had recently
been married acted as the bride and groom. There
was a dance ; then the young man pretended to flee into
the jungle. The other men ran after him, bringing
him back to where the bride was sitting on the ground,
surrounded by the women. With loud shouts, the men
plumped the lad down in the girl's lap, and all, men and
women alike, threw themselves on top of the bride and
groom, like football players on a loose ball, weeping
and wailing as if in mortal grief. From fifty yards
away, the bridal party looked like a huge black
Standing near this marriage ball was a girl, her body
covered with long zigzag designs in white. She re-
fused to enter into the fun. The forester explained that
she was a debutante, as her paintings showed, and that
marriage was much too important an affair for her
to enter into sport about it. She had but lately re-
ceived her "flower name." Every pigmy girl must be
called after a flower when she matures into woman-
hood. She passes through an elaborate three-day
Murderers' Island 35
ceremony to receive this name, during which she is
allowed neither to eat nor sleep. At the end of that
time a name is selected for her after one of the jungle
trees or plants in bloom at that time, to show that the
girl herself has bloomed into womanhood. Hence-
forth she is never known by her childhood name. She
is now a young lady of very few social restrictions, and
But to my mind the strangest thing about these
pigmy nomads is that they know no way of making
fire. Each family has a fire of their own, which they
keep always going. When the}' travel, they carry the
fire with them, thinking it a gift from the gods, that,
if once extinguished, they may never relight. The
Andamanese are the only human beings I have ever
heard of who do not know how to make fire.
Some days later we were sailing past one of the
southern islands of the group when Jack, the Fiji bush-
man, came aft to me and said:
"You want turtle eggs, Cap'n? You let Jack go
ashore here. He bring you plenty nice turtle eggs."
Now, as Jack knew from past experience, 1 like turtle
eggs, so we sailed a couple of hundred yards from the
shore; and Dresser, the Dane, Cooper, Andy, Big
Johnny and Jack lowered the dory over the side,
dropped in and rowed ashore. The breakers were roll-
ing in against a white sandy beach, and the landing
party had to run the boat in through the heavy surf.
36 The Sea Gypsy
But to the native boys in the dory this was child's play.
They ran the heavy surf with shouts of delight, and in
half a minute we watchers from the yacht saw the bow-
men leaping into the water and hauling the small boat
up on the beach.
I cruised away in the yacht, and in a couple of hours
returned to pick up the turtle egg hunters. Through
the glasses I could see them, sporting stark naked in the
surf, Andy and Johnny running knee deep and then
turning front flips. But Jack was standing back, ap-
parently on guard, for he had in his hand the shotgun
which they had taken ashore, and was apparently
watching for something to come out of the jungle.
Seeing our return signal flag they were soon aboard.
From the bottom of the dory they brought out a great
sack filled with giant crabs, but nothing else.
"Where are the turtle eggs?" was the immediate
demand from everybody who had stayed aboard.
And then came a hubbub of explanations. It seemed
that when the party landed they had seen in the clear
water above the white sand scores of great turtles
swimming about. "Den Jack think dat beach have
plenty turtle eggs," said Jack.
Then the party had gone up the beach a little way
hunting for turtle egg nests, Jack in the lead by fifty
yards. All of a sudden he stopped, then turned, and
came running back like mad. "Run, run. Dis island
full of debils," he cried. The others finally stopped
him, and found out that he had seen a "debil bigger
dan a canoe crawling about in de bushes," and the
Murderers' Island 37
thing had stuck out a tongue "four foot long and
all over with blood.' ' Everybody armed himself with
sticks, Dresser carrying the one shotgun brought
ashore, and went forward to investigate. On the
beach were half a dozen black scaly looking figures,
looking something like alligators, yet somehow quite
different. At the sight of the men the "debils"
stopped. The men approached, ready to run any
second, and one of them picked up a piece of big
shell and hurled it at the nearest of the beasts. Out
came a long red tongue, a spitting. Then the men
attacked. Dresser fired a shotgun into the open mouth,
and as the animal rolled over, the others pounded its
head with sticks. The other beasts scuttled into the
edge of the jungle. The now elated hunters measured
the dead thing, and found it to be about four feet long.
They said it looked like a giant lizard.
Here Taylor stopped the story with, "Must have been
an iguana such as are in South America. Why you can
catch them by the tails. They are harmless.' '
"Ketch him by the tail? You go ashore and ketch
him, Cap'n Taylor. Jack he stay on ship," was the
answer from the leader of the turtle egg hunters.
The rest of the party swore that there were giant
lizards far bigger than the ones they had killed, hun-
dreds of them. "As big as young horses," said the
Dane shaking his head. At any rate the animals had
eaten up all the turtle eggs; and, unless the merchant
in Colombo whom someone of the ship's company
told about this island, has devastated it to get hides for
38 The Sea Gypsy
purses and slippers, there is a fruitful field for scientists
on this island in the Andamans.
But the time came to leave the Andamans at last.
In fact we never sailed back to Port Blair after the
turtle egg hunt, for to us gypsies of the sea two weeks
at any place was a long, long time, no matter how inter-
esting the spot. So we sailed away toward the Indian
Ocean. But someday I would like to go back to that
strange island where live the ten thousand killers of a
hundred different races, where white women ride about
in carriages drawn by murderers, and aboriginal black
pigmies come stealing out of the jungle fastnesses to
peer curiously at it all. I would like to go back, but
the world is very big when one wanders it up and down,
and I suppose I never shall.
SOMALILAND TO ABYSSINIA
""pHE coast of French Somaliland loomed ahead, a
* desolate stretch of burning sand. The sun beat
down unmercifully on a group of white coral-rock
houses on the edge of the desert. The only sign of green
was a garden made up of a few trees and bushes planted
before the Governor's big mansion which lay on the
edge of the mud flat which made hideous the front of
the town. From the deck of the Wisdom we could see
not a moving thing. The place seemed not dying but
Our quarantine flag was finally answered by a dozen
naked black urchins who swam about the ship, grinning
cheerfully and crying, "Deux sous, d, la mer-deux sous, d, la
mer" a signal that they were willing to plunge into the
water on the chance of bringing up a copper piece. Rex
and Dusty, the two ship's dogs, Airedales, leaped into
the water after the swimmers, who fled yelping more
loudly than the dogs. After about two hours a rowboat
paddled lazily out, and a native came on board, who
40 The Sea Gypsy-
said he was the assistant to the port doctor. This
was our sole official welcome to French Somaliland.
It seemed as if our sea gypsy had brought us to a
spot where the adventure and color of romance was
dead. But in reality we were at the gateway to one of
the most interesting spots on earth, which some of us
were soon to visit. For behind this desert of French
Somaliland high up in the mountains of northeast
Africa there is one of the oldest kingdoms in the world,
which for a thousand years was lost to the outside
world. It is almost as large in area as France and Ger-
many combined and is inhabited by some ten millions
of people. The kingdom is called by the outer world,
Abyssinia. Before I visited it my idea of Africa had
been one of naked black savages living under the rule
of European governors. I found in Abyssinia a grave
and courtly young man who claims direct descent from
King Solomon and Queen Sheba, ruling, as the Regent
of a figurehead Empress, and ruling as the most abso-
lute monarch left in the world, I think. Even the
Kaiser of Germany and the Czar of all the Russias in
the days of their might had no such power over their
people as this Abyssinian Prince over his. No con-
stitution nor parliament nor cabinet check the au-
thority of Tafari of Abyssinia. He is the Lord of Life
and Death — the Master absolute.
And Ras Tafari and most of the ruling class are
Christians. Indeed for over a thousand years his land
has been a Christian island in a sea of pagans and
Mohammedans. But the Christianity is that of the
Somaliland to Abyssinia 41
East, of the East of a thousand years ago, and is super-
imposed on old Judaism and pagan superstitions. The
High Priests still dress in the rich, multicolored silken
robes of the Priests of the Temple of Solomon, and be-
fore them on religious days walk attendants blowing
trumpets, the duplicates of those that blew down the
walls of Jericho. The Abyssinians belong to a mixture
of the feudal age, and before. Their favorite dish is
raw meat, freshly killed and smoking; the nobles know
no duty but warfare and the hunt of the lion and the
elephant (I was told that in the far west some still hunt
on horseback with the sword) ; every household of im-
portance has many slaves, and — but let Cooper tell the
story of Abyssinia. I was forced to return from its
mountain capitol to the Wisdom at Jibuti owing to ill-
health, while Cooper, Taylor, and Schoedsack (the
latter a new member of the party, who joined us as a
motion picture operator), remained in Abyssinia.
Therefore Cooper's tale is more complete than mine.
Captain Salisbury decided that Taylor and I should
go up to Addis- Abeba first. But we were forced to
wait a couple of days for a train, as the trains only run
twice a week. I am glad we did not have to stay in
Jibuti longer. In one night I saw all that I wished.
Taylor, McNeil and I were ashore to look over the
town. We soon became tired of the European quarter,
42 The Sea Gypsy
where live about five hundred Greeks and French.
Nothing to see but unlighted houses along a half-dozen
sun-baked prisoner-swept streets lined with oleander
bushes; and in the center a square on which faced a
shabby Greek hotel with a fly-infested drinking-room
and tables on the sidewalk. In the heavy, hot night
air about these tables sat some of the pasty-faced white
population, drowsily drinking. The only movements
were the swish of the punka in the drinking-room and
the flutter of the big palm fans wielded by diminutive
almost naked black boys as they drove the insects away
from roosting places on their master's drink-veined
We drank one drink, then, "Let's get out of this,"
said McNeil with disgust.
We wandered down one of the unlighted streets and
in two minutes came to a steep slope. Here the street
seemed to fall off abruptly into the darkness. We
could just make out below the great market-place, sur-
rounded by little native shops. The place was filled
with dark shapes, dimly seen by the little fires which
dotted it, flickering below us like fireflies. We half-
walked, half-crawled down the incline. Below we
found ourselves in a sea of muck and mud. Sleeping
on every side were hundreds of camels, sheep and asses,
while about the fires lay their masters, black Somalis
of the desert.
We turned to the left and plunged down one of the
side streets. It was pitch dark. The light of torches
glowed far away, and thence came the sound of chant-
A Musical Instrument of Somaliland
Somaliland to Abyssinia 45
ing. We stumbled through the filth toward these
lights, bumping now and then into some barefooted
figure slipping through the darkness like a black ghost.
The torches came nearer, the sound of singing higher.
We stepped back against the thatched wall of a house.
Past us slowly came a procession of a hundred or more
long-robed, turbaned men, grouped tight about the
flag of the Crescent. Their voices rose and fell in their
weird chanting. Their faces showed by torchlight
fierce with religious ecstasy. By our sides a woman
hid her face against the wall and shrilled a piercing cry
"lu-lu-lu-lu." Other women's voices took it up. And
from far and near the air became alive with the shrill
The torches turned down another narrow valley.
Blackness again. A woman, tall, full-bodied, black, in
a loose white robe came and stopped in front of us mut-
tering, then another, and another, and another. In a
minute the whole street was filled with them — Ama-
zons, filthy-smelling. The muttering rose into cries
and bickering. They pawed at our clothes. Somali
talk, Arab talk, broken French, broken English. The
first huge woman was the most persistent. "See de
Arab dance, de Somali dance, de Indian dance," she
cried over and over again.
"Well," said Taylor, "here's a chance to see the
famous and beautiful and sensuous dances of the East.
The women led us down a muddy alley, pushed open
a gate, then led on through a little courtyard to a small
46 The Sea Gypsy-
hut of thatch and mud. The big woman struck a match
and lighted a candle. The room was only a very
moderate-sized one. Two high board beds, on which
lay gaudy covered mattresses, filled most of the space.
An unpainted wood shelf held an English china tea set.
The floor space of packed dirt which was left was no
bigger than that which could be covered by a big
" The lovely theatre of the dancers of the East," said
We climbed on the edge of a bed and called for a
The women clapped their hands and shuffled awk-
wardly. There was hardly space there for the three to
"Enough, Arab dance," we said.
The women clapped their hands, and again shuffled —
just as before.
Came a pounding on the door, and shrill cries from
without. One dancer quit and put her back against
the door. The others paid no attention to the racket.
" Indian dance," we cried in unison.
Once more exactly the same clapping and shuffling.
We paid our money and went out to face a score of
other dancers, who had been banging the door hoping
to get in to show their skill also. But we pulled away
from their clutches, and made for the ship.
These dancers and the fly-ridden cafe are Jibuti's
only amusements. Absolutely nothing else. No won-
der the whites seem indescribably listless. What a
Somaliland to Abyssinia 47
contrast they made to an English colony where the
men and women alike keep fit at all costs! Indeed,
Jibuti has no claim for existence at all except as the port
to Abyssinia, whence come down hides and coffee,
most of which, after passing through the hands of
numerous foreign middlemen, arrives at last in America.
The dawn was just coming over the sea the next
morning when Taylor and I were driven down to the
little station. A tiny train was waiting — an engine and
four diminutive openwork cars, marked third class,
filled with chattering natives, and a fifth car divided
into two parts, one second and the other first class.
We piled our baggage into the latter ; waved good-by to
Billings, (the only Englishman in Jibuti and a fine
chap), who had come down to the station in his carriage
driven by two big white horses — quite the smartest
turnout in Somaliland; the little engine gave a few
feeble chugs ; and we were off for Abyssinia.
The distance inland from Jibuti to Addis-Abeba in
the highlands of Abyssinia is only five hundred miles,
but it takes three days to make the trip. There are
three good reasons for this — the train doesn't run at
night, what of the fear of the railroad officials that it
will be derailed and plundered by the wild tribes of the
desert ; secondly, there is a comfortable stop each noon
for lunch ; and lastly, the none-too-powerful engine has
to pull on an upgrade, for Addis-Abeba is a full eight
thousand feet above the sea level of Jibuti.
48 The Sea Gypsy
Realizing we had a good long trip before us Taylor
and I proceeded to settle down. So did our fellow
passengers, a half dozen whites. We hauled a couple
of books from our musset bags ; but the other voyageurs,
being Latins, fell into talk, and I soon deserted my
book to shamelessly listen and at last join in, for the
stout grey -haired French woman with the red face who
sat aross from me was telling about life in Harkov in
Russia. Her husband had been chief engineer of the
station apparently, and her talk brought back to me
vividly the remembrance of the hours I spent lying flat
on its platform nursing a bad leg — for I was a prisoner
— while my guards and I waited for the Moscow train.
She and her husband had lost their all in the Revolu-
tion, and he was now starting life over again at fifty-
eight as one of the assistant-superintendents of this
little track of line in a forgotten part of Africa. This
cheerful, grey-haired lady had by her side her daughter,
a fresh young girl of eighteen, bubbling over with life,
very happy, for she was going to meet at Dira-Dowa,
the first night's stop, her fiancee, a young rubber
planter. The other people who packed our compart-
ment were a young Belgian assistant on a coffee planta-
tion, dressed in "shorts," trying to be very English, but
with a hatred of pioneer work which showed a contrary
disposition, and a sunburned, voluble fellow whose wide
sombrero and canvas shooting coat and flannel shirt
made him the perfect picture of the sportsman adven-
turer. He was a travelling salesman for a wine house.
But he was an adventurer, after all, for his business
Somaliland to Abyssinia 49
took him to all parts of the world. He had sold liquors
in the court of Siam, in Zanzibar, in Borneo — and here
I quit writing down the names of the far places in my
notebook so many of them did he mention — and in
each he spent his leisure in big-game hunting.
With rasy frankness of French bourgeois all this
information came out in the first hour.
1 ' But A I asked of the French lady at last, ' ' are there
no travellers for pleasure who ever go to Abyssinia ?"
' ' Travellers for pleasure to At ;
and looked at the others. "Do you hear what he asks?
i d, no, never!"
"Never, never," chorused the adventurous drummer
and young Belgian.
"Well," thought I. 'This is a unique place. I
thought that in th. '. ; .:: : - :.: -Av::ev-:r there
was a railroad."
The reason, i: seem s. that they have noissed Abys-
sinia, a fascinating country despite my fall : w-travAiers'
scorn, is that few people have heard of the railway. J :
was only completed during the World War. Before
then it took weeks of arduous travel by caravan to get
from the coast to Addis-Abeba. The construction of
this line is a little romance in itself. It came about
Forty years ago when Menelik II, the King of Shoa,
gained the Emperor's throne, two young adventurers
made their way t: Addis-Ate: a. One of these, a Swiss,
Monsieur Igh gained the Entpertr's confidence by
showing the newer c: Western civilization :hr:ugh
50 The Sea Gypsy
making for the monarch with his own hands a pair of
shoes and a crude rifle ; the other, Monsieur Chenfieux,
a Frenchman, had run in a caravan of rifles against
what appeared to be insurmountable difficulties, to
trade for the Emperor's ivory. These two adventurers
became Menelik's foreign advisers. Here these two
intelligent and ambitious young men found themselves
the power behind the throne in a country of great po-
tential but entirely undeveloped wealth, held back
from developing that wealth chiefly because it had no
outlet to the outside world. What more of an oppor-
tunity could they want, these two young adventurers
who dared to dream great dreams? Why, they would
build a railroad and open up the Empire !
So they decided, though they had not a thousand
dollars between them. And they wanted several mil-
lion. First they got the Emperor to toss them off a con-
cession, and with this paper, but no money, they went
to Paris and got their millions. They saw themselves
great and rich. Ah, well, they had their shot at great-
ness anyhow, and for a little they basked in the sun-
shine of glory. But only for a little. They had to
build a town on the desert edge, for Jibuti had been
nothing before; they had to fight their way along in
many a battle against the Somalis and Danklies; and,
worst of all they had to keep white men working in the
tropical desert. And so when the railroad reached a
third of the way they found themselves without money
to go on ; and by now they had lost most of their share
of the road in their dealings with the financiers.
Somaliland to Abyssinia 51
There, for many years, the road stopped; but when a
group of British financiers tried to get control, the
French Government, fearing a duplication of the Suez
Canal affair, took practical control, and guaranteed the
interest on the money to finish the road which was to
open up a new Empire to the world.
But what of the men — those young adventurers who
dreamed that great dream so long ago? What of them,
now? One of them is somewhere back in Switzerland,
an old and bitter man, I was told, and the other I met
in Addis-Abeba, a tired, broken old fellow with all his
glory fallen from him. And yet, not quite all, for a
young Abyssinian pointed him out to me one day with
the words: "There is one of the few Europeans who
have come among us and have remained honest." Not
a bad epitaph to a broken career, that.
We rode a day through the desert, stopping at wooden
shacks called stations which were guarded by barefoot
Abyssinian soldiers ("The books say these fellows aren't
niggers, but they look like the same darky breed we
have at home," said I to Taylor, on seeing these
warriors. They surely were black enough.) and where
wild Somalis armed with knives and spears grouped
themselves about the trains and peered curiously at us.
We rode a second day through the brush country and
stopped that evening at a desert shack built in the
wilderness. The third day we came into the highlands.
Here game, deer and pheasant were abundant. We
52 The Sea Gypsy
could see them on both sides of the train scurrying
away as we approached. In the late afternoon of that
day we came near our journey's end.
"You will see two men hanging on a gallows now,"
said the sombreroed wine drummer.
The train rose over the crest of a hill, then started
down a long winding grade. Taylor and I pressed to
the window. Below us in a valley lay a small plateau
covered by an eucalyptus tree forest. Not a house to
"Addis-Abeba!" cried the liquor man. The town
was lost in the forest.
"Lord!" said Taylor. "We will never dare show
photographs taken here. Everybody will swear they
were made at Hollywood," for Hollywood is likewise
shaded by eucalyptus trees.
From high up in the surrounding mountains to the
edge of the eucalyptus forest wound the long line of tiny
figures. We could see camels loaded down with grain
and hides ; mules and donkeys staggering under bundles
of faggots; white-robed riders, gun barrels glistening in
the sunshine, astride of mountain ponies ; black women
and boys and men afoot driving flocks of sheep and
goats — as far as we could see this endless chain of
travellers twisted down from the mountain and was lost
in the eucalyptus forest in the valley. Abyssinia was
bringing in its weekly tithes to the capital of its
The train dipped around another turn.
"Now look," cried our liquor-selling companion.
Somaliland to Abyssinia 53
We craned our necks out of the window and stared.
At the turn of the road there stood, right enough, a
gallows tree, dark and forbidding. But the tree was
bare of fruit. There were no men hanging there.
The wine salesman sighed with all the bitterness of a
country hostess whose cook has just announced that a
tramp has stolen the turkey of which she has been brag-
ging to her guests. "I assure you, Messieurs, nine
days out of ten you would see corpses rotting on that
gallows," said our French friend with a sigh of disap-
pointment; then added, "And the dogs jumping to
tear off pieces of the flesh." He took his seat in disgust
and refused to look out again. His day had been
The train approached close to the forest. Through
the tall swaying trees we could see glimpses of thatched
roofs and brown and white houses. On the very edge
of the forest the train stopped. Nearby a group of
wooden shacks was an excited crowd of half a thousand
men, black and brown, all with guns swung over then-
backs, most with long curved swords by their sides and
mounted on mules or sturdy little horses. We had
come to Addis-Abeba. And wonder upon wonders,
here at the station of a nation's capital — not even a
THE LAST OF THE FEUDAL PRINCES
"IT isn't real," I said to myself. "It's a dream — of
living in an age long, long dead."
I was sitting high up on a mountainside looking down
on Addis-Abeba, the capital of Abyssinia, where we had
arrived ten days before. My horse was munching grass
near an old underground monastery, now the home of
hyenas. The tropical sunlight beat down brilliantly
through air that was so clear that each miniature house,
each pigmy tree, each tiny figure below seemed not re-
duced in size by their distance but normally thus small.
Gloriously I gulped in the air that was wine, and gor-
geously I visioned the fantastic dream-city below.
If one could call it a city! There below were really
five hundred villages scattered through a forest of a
thousand stately eucalyptus trees. Through the forest
wound brown roads on which I could see moving in-
numerable groups of white dots. From most came
the glitter of steel. These I knew to be noblemen
on horseback and muleback, swords at their sides, their
men-at-arms trotting along on foot behind them. The
The Last of the Feudal Princes 57
dots from which came no sunlit sparkle of metal were
the peasant women walking, or the upper-class women
riding astride of mules. I chuckled a little as I thought
of them, for 1 knew, for all their dignity, that the big
toes of their bare feet were stuck through narrow iron
Far over to the side of the Forest City, I could make
out the great market square, jammed with thousands of
peasants bringing in their wood and grain and sheep
and goats. Taylor and I had forced our horses through
the crowd that morning. And in this market-place
stood a gallows. And in front of the church of St.
George was a great tree with far-spreading limbs.
And from the gallows and from the tree on Satur-
days were hauled up by the neck living men. And
thus publicly on many a market-day, gallows and
tree bore their ghastly fruit, that all men might
know that the Son of Solomon still sat sternly in the
Seat of Justice.
Now far down to the left I could make out an open
stretch of green where other sorts of executions were car-
ried out. Here men were sabered or stabbed or clubbed
or shot to death. These were murderers handed over
to the members of the family of the man they had mur-
dered to die by his kinsfolks' hands in exactly the same
manner in which they had killed. And here also in-
corrigible thieves had their right hands and left feet
hacked off, and lay there moaning until their women
carried them away.
On the hills about the Forest City rose the roofs of
58 The Sea Gypsy
larger houses, the town places of country barons
About these also moved the miniature white figures,
for each such mansion was always kept with a full com-
plement of servants and slaves waiting for the master
when he rode in from his distant province to pay
homage to the Empress and the Prince Regent.
At my feet far away from the forest's edge lay four
or five houses widely separated. Out of one came gal-
loping a little cavalcade led by a man in European
dress astride a big gray horse. Behind rode turbaned
servants carrying lances from which fluttered bright
pennons. This was one of the foreign ministers — no
diplomatic figurehead here in Abyssinia, but a great
lord carrying the dignity and power of his mighty
And now I looked down along the edge of the forest
and saw two groups of stone buildings stretching over
many acres, each surrounded by walls within walls.
The one nearest town was the gibbi, "palace" of the
Prince Regent, who is the direct descendant of King
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The second, closer
to me, was the present home of Taylor and me, given
us by the Prince. Then far to the left, I saw a still
greater group of stone and mud buildings and walls,
dominating all the Forest City. This was the Great
Gibbi of the Queen of Kings of Abyssinia, the Empress,
daughter of him who signed himself — "The Lion of
Judah has conquered." In absolute possession over an
empire six times as big as New England and inhabited
by ten millions of people, she stretches her hand.
The Last of the Feudal Princes 59
The many roads leading to the Great Gibbi were
thronged with riders and men on foot — nobles going to
pay homage, the ten thousand men-at-arms who guard
the Empress, the never-counted stewards and lackeys
and black slaves who serve her royal home. And, as I
looked, a great concourse of riders poured out from the
main gate. And I knew that the riders were the Prince
himself and his armed lords riding home with pomp and
circumstance after their daily visit to the ''Queen of
A dream — a vision — a memory of the Age of Kings !
"Yes, dreaming I must be." And, at last, I reached
up and pinched my cheek. And jumped ! Yes, 1 was
most surely awake. No dream this, but reality. I
sprang to my feet, called my attendants, and rode down
the mountainside to my palace below.
I rode past the very entrance to the Great Gibbi of
the Empress. Over one of the stone gates was a rude
wooden floor, half decayed. On this were lolling half a
dozen dirty black barelegged serfs and soldiers. I passed
a noble. I knew him to be master of scores of vassals,
with an estate as big as a county. Yet I remembered
that his house was little better than a large hut of mud
and thatch. I remembered that if I entered his dwelling,
I would probably find his wife, mistress of many slaves,
seated on a pile of straw, though in truth the straw
would be covered with oriental rugs. Something was
wrong with the magnificence of my vision. Close at
hand, touches of barbarism everywhere seemed to dull
the radiance of it all.
60 The Sea Gypsy
But then I thought : ''If I could really be transported
back through the centuries to the Court of Arthur and
his Knights of the Round Table, would I not find there,
outside the palace wall, dirty serfs, and scavenger dogs?
Would not the villages of old Wales also be made up of
mud huts? By heaven!" I swore. "Now I under-
stand squalor so close to regal power. Those story-book
pictures, all gold and glamour and brillance, are false.
As I see the Forest City, now, close up — power and
pomp side by side with rude barbarism and poverty —
why, there is the truth of the Age of Kings. Thus, in
olden days, really lived the world."
And then I thought also: "These people have al-
lowed negro blood to come into the race. The tar
brush is probably the real basic reason for this squalor."
Our first dwelling in Addis-Abeba was the little inn,
kept by a French ex-poilu. No one who can buy a
horse or mule walks in Abyssinia, so on our first morn-
ing we rented a couple of nags. The poilu innkeeper
insisted that at least one boy accompany us as a groom
and that a couple of others trot along on foot holding
to our horses' tails.
"You will understand, messieurs" he said, twirling
his debonair black mustache, "it is impossible for a
gentleman to ride unaccompanied here."
Five miles or so we rode through the Forest City,
until at last we came to the English Legation. It was
a stone building, set against the side of a mountain and
The Last of the Feudal Princes 61
surrounded by native villages and spacious gardens.
It was the most pretentious residence in all Abyssinia.
Mr. Claude Russell, the British Minister, a lean man
in his forties, very fit, a member of one of the great
British families, received us.
The British Minister was most courteous and cordial.
He arranged our first audience with the Prince Regent.
Mr. Zaphiro, the British oriental secretary, a remark-
able man who had come out to Abyssinia as a chemist a
score of years ago, and by sheer ability and courage as
the agent of the British government along the wild
Sudanese border had won the C. M. G., escorted us to
the palace of the Prince. A stone wall perhaps a mile
in circumference surrounded it. We came to the
closed portals — riders, passing in and out, filled the main
gate — and Zaphiro rapped on it with his riding crop.
There within, on either side, were standing at attention
two soldiers, dressed for all the world, except for their
bare feet, like American doughboys. A hundred yards
away was a one-storied stone house, with wide spacious
steps. It looked like the country home of a prosper-
ous New Yorker. "And this is the palace of a
Barbarian King!" Taylor exclaimed.
But I pointed to the left, where the gate to the inner
wall stood open. In a great courtyard, on horse and
muleback, were a hundred men in sweeping robes,
armed with spears and long swords. Black slaves were
running about. Bareheaded, stalwart men-at-arms were
grouped about them.
This was the true courtyard of the Son of Solomon.
62 The Sea Gypsy
The Prince's modern house was but a speck of civiliza-
tion upon the broad surface of that wild empire. At
the door to the palace a score of soldiers presented
arms. A huge Abyssinian, his body draped in white
cotton but with his left shoulder bare, swung open the
door. We entered directly into a long room stretching
the length of the building. For a second I thought it
was empty, but only for a second ; then I saw on a sofa
far down one side of the room a dark, silent figure, and
I knew that this must be Ras Tafari, Prince of Abys-
As we advanced, our footsteps soundless on rich
oriental rugs, the Prince arose. Silent and dignified
he stood, the sunlight sweeping in from two great win-
dows illuminating every line and feature. A man of
thirty, a slight, erect figure in a long black cloak, color-
less but for a red collar. Black eyes set well apart;
long dark lashes; a heavy black beard; a broad fore-
As I looked, I remembered once more the legend that
the rulers of Abyssinia were the descendants of Solomon,
and I thought to myself that this man's face was re-
markably like the pictures of Solomon in the story
As we shook hands I saw that Ras Tafari 's hand
was as little and fragile as a woman's. Yet I knew
he could well wield a sabre, for he had led an army
in hand-to-hand conflict when he had won his
We sat down, Tafari upon his sofa, Taylor, Zaphiro
The Last of the Feudal Princes 63
and I on European chairs facing him. The Prince
spoke in Abyssinian, Taylor and I in English, Zaphiro
interpreted. In the many times thereafter when I
talked with the Prince, we spoke directly with each
other in French. I did not know how often I would see
Ras Tafari again, so I fell to my trade, and plied him
with the hundred questions of the journalist. His an-
swers were calm and unhesitating. He spoke of his
"Abyssinia is an empire made up of a num-
ber of minor kingdoms and provinces," he said.
"The supreme head of the government is the Em-
press. She, the Crown of the Empire, owns all
the land and has the power of life and death over
every person in Abyssinia. Her word is the law. I,
as Regent of the Empire, exercise these powers in
"And who is the head of the judicial system?" I
"I." An expected answer.
And then Tafari smiled and said. "I know that to
you the life here will seem incredibly strange. And I
know that if this empire must continue to exist there
are many things which must change." Then slowly,
and balancing each word, he added: "Abyssinia must
learn the ways of modern civilization. We must have
64 The Sea Gypsy
progress. And to gain this we must educate our people.
That is my aim. With my private funds, I have built
a modern school, soon to be opened. (The next day I
saw the schoolhouse; it was well-equipped.) I am
sending personally a number of young men to be edu-
cated in Italy and France — and now there are three of
my youths in your far-off America. I know it is only
the beginning of progress. But progress will come. It
As he spoke these last words, Tafari's eyes had
lighted with enthusiasm, and I think all three of us
foreigners realized that here indeed was something
greater than the gorgeous stories of the fairy-book.
Here was a Prince, who in all his life had been but three
days away from his dark kingdom, the war leader of a
wild army, the judge who with a word sent men to be
hung in public market squares, or to have their limbs
hacked off, the owner of slaves, the ruler who by
training and education was an absolute monarch —
here was such a Prince fired by enthusiasm for liberal
Afterwards I saw a figure of gold at the head of
twenty thousand warriors. I saw twice twenty thou-
sand people wild with religious enthusiasm as the
high priest of lost Judah baptized him. I saw him pre-
side over a banquet stranger than any dream of fiction.
I saw him in all these strange r61es, yet never did I feel
the same sense of wonder as when I heard him, the
despot, cry out with real enthusiasm for liberality and
The Last of the Feudal Princes 65
One morning we were seated on the porch of the little
inn, watching the caravans pass by, when a queer little
cavalcade trotted up. At its head, mounted on a tiny
stubborn mule, decked out in gay red harness and vel-
vet saddle cloth, was a little gray-mustached man in a
heavy suit of European clothes. Tipped far back on
his head where it was of no use was an old-fashioned
That derby, worn under the broiling African sun,
fascinated Taylor and me. We tried not to stare
as its wearer dismounted and entered the inn. A
few minutes later he came out accompanied by the
French inn keeper. They marched straight up to us.
Monsieur Abraham, Keeper of the Private Purse
of Prince Tafari," said the innkeeper. We all shook
hands and sat down.
Then said Monsieur Abraham in good French : ' ' His
Highness has requested me to say that your palace is
now ready for you to occupy."
1 'Palace?" said Taylor, looking at me. " Palace?"
said I, looking at him. "Urn," we said together.
"Has the Prince given us a Palace?" Taylor
Monsieur Abraham smiled. ''Yes," he answered.
"I will send boys to take your baggage when you are
The Keeper of the Prince's Purse proved to be one of
our very real friends. He did for us every courtesy
66 The Sea Gypsy
and favor possible. One reason, no doubt, was that he
was an Armenian long exiled from a home violated
and burned by the Turks, and his family and
friends had been helped by the American Relief.
The next day, followed by a line of black slaves bear-
ing our baggage, we rode over to our new home. We
saw before us another one of those vast enclosures
made up of circle within circle of stone walls within
which lived whole villages of retainers. In the heart
of this place rose a square stone tower. It was
three stories high, with latticework verandas, and
* ' Voila ! Your house, ' ' exclaimed Monsieur Abraham ,
pointing with his riding-crop at the yellow tower. We
stared, amazed, for we saw the Prince had given us the
former home of Lyg Yasu, the Ex-Emperor, whose own
residence was now a prison, a hundred miles from Addis-
Abeba, where he lives fastened wrist to wrist, day and
night, by a silver chain to one of the relations of the
present Prince. The entrance to the outer wall was
in ruins, destroyed 1 think in the last revolution.
In the outer court were tents and camels. At the
second wall my horse shied violently, almost unseating
me. Then he began shivering and refused to go on.
Taylor's horse did likewise. " What's up?" I cried to
Taylor. But Abraham's little mule kept straight on.
Encouraged by vigorous blows, our horses followed
gingerly. But, as we came through the opening, my
horse shied again. No wonder. There, in wooden
cages built against the wall, were four lions.
The Last of the Feudal Princes 67
Those were the guards of our palace gates.
Abraham cocked his derby back still farther on his
head, grinned at our astonishment, and led the way
across a second courtyard, bordered with more native
houses. We came up to a narrow white door in a high
wall. Abraham rapped sharply and after a moment a
black slave swung it open and bowed to the ground as
we rode through. We found ourselves in a little land of
our own. The high walls seemed to cut off all the out-
side world of forest and primeval huts and boulder strewn
trails. A straight gravelled path, bordered with flowers,
clove through a green lawn to the entrance of our palace.
On the porch of the palace awaiting us stood an Arab
majordomo and his two aides, in picturesque regalia.
We had come, at last, to our Abyssinian home.
Our bedroom was on the top floor, sitting-room on
the second and dining-room below. Off the sitting-
room were two smaller rooms. Each had trap doors,
leading to house dungeons. Taylor peered down. "I
suppose here is where Lyg Yasu shoved down unruly
ex-favorites to cool their hot heads." The walls of
the dining-room were hung with pictures of the
former cabinets of the Regent Prince, their members
dressed in gorgeous silken robes, very pompous. We
grinned, for all these gentlemen were now in prison
or exiled. The Prince had abolished the whole lot with
a single sweep of his hand.
Early one morning when Taylor and I were standing
on the balcony outside our bedroom, drinking in the
68 The Sea Gypsy
fresh morning air, we saw the Keeper of the Prince's
Private Purse, Monsieur Abraham, ride in on his
"Good morning, monsieur" I called down.
He looked up, smiled and waved his riding-crop
jauntily. "Ah, messieurs, you sleep late. The Prince
sits at meat with his bodyguard today. He invites
you to join him."
In ten minutes we were on horseback. Never have I
felt more gloriously alive. The air was nectar ; the road
a picture out of a romance. We passed great nobles
followed by hundreds of knights, squires and men-at-
arms; lepers, creditors, plodding along with their un-
happy debtors chained to them; white-robed women
on muleback; wayside musicians trilling on flutes. It
was a perfect scene from the Middle Ages. Taylor
was singing :
"For I've got the big brunette,
I've got the coy coquette;
I've got the ladies big and small,
And that's not all."
He stopped his song with a laugh as we turned into
the outer court of the palace. This was jammed
with thousands of warriors — bareheaded, barefooted
fellows, wearing wide cartridge-belts and dressed in
loose white robes. As the gate to the inner court
was swung open to admit us, the mob made a rush
forward to get in. Like magic appeared a dozen
chamberlains, armed with long staves. Whack!
The Last of the Feudal Princes 69
Whack! Whack! Right and left they struck on the
heads and shoulders of the hungry soldiers, who beat a
retreat, while their fellows behind guffawed.
We entered the court and saw before us a great one-
storied building painted dark red. A chamberlain
opened the wide doors, and we found ourselves in a vast,
high-roofed hall. On its floor of hard-packed earth were
set long tables, each capable of accommodating a hun-
dred or so men, and far away at one end of the great
hall was a raised platform, hidden by a white curtain
hanging from the roof. From behind this curtain came
the murmur of many voices. We knew that there we
should find the Abyssinian noblemen. They always
eat behind such a curtain ; for it protects them from the
evil eye. The chamberlain led us up some steps and
swung back the corner of the drapery.
The place was like a stage, and like a gorgeous stage-
setting was the scene. The floor was covered with
multicolored rugs, and seated cross-legged on these
were crowded together little groups of men, dressed
in the togas of the nobles of the empire. In the very
center of all, covered with a silken purple canopy and
surrounded by young men in long robes of blue and
green, was a great throne.
On the throne, still as a statue, sat the Prince Regent.
He seemed unmindful of the noise about him, and was
staring straight ahead, a far-away look in his eyes. But
as we advanced toward him, he smiled and said, in slow,
even French, ' ' I hope you will dine with my soldiers and
70 The Sea Gypsy
He raised one hand in the slightest of gestures. A
courtier bent before him. At a sharp order slaves
appeared, bearing two chairs and a little table. We
sat down beside the throne.
Strange dishes, burning hot with pepper, were placed
before us. We, as did the Abyssinians, ate of them
with our ringers and washed down the stuff with a
fiery white liquid, which looked and tasted like Russian
vodka. This was served in drinking-bottles shaped
like small carafes. Then, though it was ten o'clock
in the morning, the slaves began to bring in a steady
stream of bottles of French champagne. At the feast
that was the only thing from the outside world. Cham-
pagne is the greatest sign of the hospitality of an Abys-
sinian lord. No matter when you visit him, be it at
the hour for breakfast or luncheon or in the afternoon,
the first thing you know a bowing slave will come pat-
tering in with champagne.
While the nobles ate and drank, the Prince fell again
into his air of meditation. We finished eating, and still
more bottles of champagne were brought to the nobles
and to us. Then the curtain was drawn back. The
dignified Head Chamberlain raised his wand. At the
sign the big doors at the far-away end of the vast and
empty hall were swung open, and in poured full five
Soon I began to stare with wide-eyed amazement.
From both sides of the hall marched in processions of
slaves, two by two. Each pair carried between them
the carcass of a bullock, swung from a pole resting on
Ras Tafari in Court Costume
The Last of the Feudal Princes 73
their shoulders. And the meat was fresh-killed and
smoking and absolutely raw. Red, bloody, raw meat !
As the slaves passed between the tables, every war-
rior, with a guttural exclamation of delight, whipped
out his knife, grasped the nearest portion of the flesh of
the bullock between his teeth and, with a sharp upward
cut, slashed off the hunk of raw meat into which he had
bitten. It seemed that many of the men would slice
off the tips of their noses with the meat, but all had the
dexterity of long practice, and just before the blade
reached the nose, jerked loose the flesh with a com-
bined movement of knife and teeth.
"Has it been cooked at all?" I questioned Monsieur
" Killed just a half -hour ago," he whispered back.
1 ' The rawer the better. Raw flesh makes strong hearts
for war, they say."
More champagne — and more — and more. Down
the hall now came minstrels, singing songs of war and
the hunt; then musicians playing on flute and harp.
While the musicians played, slaves passed among the
soldiers, bearing bullock-horns filled with potent liquors.
And for us and the nobles, yet again champagne. The
sound of revelry grew higher. The five thousand war-
riors gnawed at the raw and smoking flesh, drank deep
of the fiery liquor and shouted hoarse orders at the
slaves. Loud sang the minstrels ; shrill rose the melody
of the flutes; deep boomed the drums of war.
But the silent figure on the great purple-covered
throne nsver moved.
74 The Sea Gypsy
And more champagne.
"If we don't want to be carried out, we had better
go — quick!" I muttered in Taylor's ear. We got up
and, a little unsteadily, I am afraid, moved toward
the Prince. He woke from his reverie to say good-by.
Outside we saw thousands of other soldiers, waiting
their turn to enter. And, as we walked to our horses,
Monsieur Abraham said: "The warriors eat in five re-
lays. A hundred and fifty bullocks are killed for the
dinner. It costs the Prince two thousand dollars and
does not end until late."
But I, when I was galloping home, thought not at
all of that strange banquet, but of the lonely ruler,
sitting there on his purple throne in the midst of his
GUARDIANS OF THE LION OF JUDAH
'X'AYLOR and I slowed our horses to a walk. Before
us lay the Great Gibbi of the Empress, a vast if
enclosure covering the whole top of the low hill which
dominates Addis- Abeba, where we had been told she
lived surrounded by ten thousand soldiers, attendants
and slaves. Tafari had arranged an audience for us
with her that morning.
As we rode up to the gate of the outer wall it was
flung open; and we rode in past a tower pierced with
loopholes for rifle fire. We found ourselves on a steep
walled road, along which lounged half -naked children,
gossiping women, and rough soldiers. Loud shouts rang
out, and warders rushed down the path showering blows on
the idlers. Half a minute — presto ! — the road was empty.
We dismounted, threw our reins to our grooms and
walked on, Bakalaw, our official escort, a tall young
protege of the Regent, beside us. From around every
corner peeped staring faces. I wondered what they
thought of us, and grinned. I knew that they were
accustomed to see foreign ministers pass a-glitter with
the gold lace and decorations of official dress. But we
76 The Sea Gypsy
were differently clad — far differently. As I thought of
our appearance I remembered a tale of how Prince
Henri of Orleans had come, dressed in shooting clothes,
to pay his respects to a former Abyssinian Emperor.
The Emperor had looked him over haughtily, then
turned to a near-by favorite and said: "Who is this
man who does not know how to appear before a king? "
And I also recalled how an official at Jibuti in French
Somaliland had told me : " If you have an audience with
the Empress, be sure to wear a frock coat. No foreigner
is ever admitted unless so dressed or in uniform."
Well, I had no frock coat, nor indeed any kind of
coat but an old brown Norfolk jacket, and the rest
of my dress was even more shabby: worn square-toed
army shoes; travel-stained spiral puttees; green Ger-
man-officer's riding breeches (borrowed from Andy,
on the Wisdom) ; a soft shirt ; ancient black tie ; and a
cheap Italian felt hat. Taylor was a little more respec-
table, but not greatly so.
We entered the gate to the inner wall and marched
along one of the labyrinthian paths through a maze
of strangely assorted stone buildings, ranging from a
rather savage magnificence to primaeval simplicity.
Along the paths lounged groups of courtiers — big men
for the most part, in the embroidered edged togas of
nobles of the Empire, barefooted and bareheaded.
From the nearest group, two, who held the long staffs
of Court Chamberlains, stepped forward and bowed.
A few words with Bakalaw, and they led us up a path
toward the greater mansions above. Soon Taylor
At the Wheel of the "Wisdom"
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 79
nudged me. ''Look below," he said. I peered down
to the next terrace level and saw there wooden cages
filled with grown lions, and in the open, held by slaves
on leashes, like so many pet dogs, a half dozen lion
cubs. The lion is the national emblem of Abyssinia,
and Menelik signed himself, "The Lion of Judah has
conquered." Therefore the royal beasts are the pets of
the Imperial Court.
The Chamberlain led us to a high terrace where he
motioned us to enter a small building of stone, aloft
and alone like a statue on a pedestal. It had only three
walls, as the entire front had purposely been left open.
We entered and sat down on chairs placed so as to face
toward the open side and looked down over part of the
Palace Grounds and the Forest City.
The Chamberlains left us.
Below we watched the life of the Court — a minstrel
twanged at his harp and sang to a group of broad-
belted men-at-arms. Black slaves hurried to and fro
loaded down with bundles of faggots and platters
piled high with strange foods; a score more stumbled
along bearing on poles the carcases of fresh killed
bullocks to be eaten raw by the soldiers, and half a
dozen full-bosomed, broad-hipped girls were giggling
near the entrance to a great timbered hall where ten
thousand warriors of the Guard were weekly feasted
by Zaoditou ! Haughtily ignorant of these lower beings,
the pompous (and for the most part, very black) digni-
taries of the Court strolled by.
As we watched, the Chamberlains returned and
80 The Sea Gypsy
motioned us to follow. We passed a stone edifice, stand-
ing high above the other buildings.
"The Great Hall of the Empress," Bakalaw whis-
pered, visibly awed, though in truth by civilized stand-
ards it was no great building.
I had heard about the receptions which Zaoditou
held there for official envoys. One entered and saw
far down the high ceiling of audience room, on a splen-
did dais, a great throne, surrounded by a thousand
(so we were told) officials, robed in silks and satins and
velvets and the skins of leopards and lions, all inter-
woven with designs in golden thread. I was sorry to
miss seeing all that, but our audience was not an affair
of State — but informal.
We went through an open passageway, and came
out on to a stone platform, on one corner of which
stood a tower. Around the outside of the tower wound
a flight of steps. Up these the Chamberlains led us.
At the top we came to a doorway hung with curtains.
Our escorts threw these aside and we entered. Within
the light was shadowy, almost dim, and coming thus
suddenly from the brilliant sunlight, we could see but
darkly. For a second we stood motionless in the door-
way. Then, as our eyes became accustomed to the
change of light, we saw, like a landscape rising at dawn
out of the dusky night, a bizarre scene.
A circular room covered with carpets and hung with
velvet draperies — outlined against this dark background
and standing against the wall a dozen barefooted, bare-
headed men dressed in loose, white robes, draped over
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 81
one shoulder, who if not negroes, were certainly black
enough to have been so. In the middle, upon a throne,
strewn with gorgeous embroideries, sat what looked like
a little bundle of white gauze. Then I perceived, look-
ing out from the top of this queer bundle, two brown
eyes. And above the eyes rested a golden crown.
It was the Empress. She was a pigmy.
I advanced toward her and she lowered her veil reveal-
ing a diminutive round solemn countenance. Her eyes
seemed to look me over curiously, as she extended a gauze-
covered hand. It was as small and fragile as a baby's.
No one vouchsafed an introduction, so, breaking the pro-
found silence, I murmured a few words of greeting, Taylor
following my example. Then one of the Ministers, a lean,
tall fellow, motioned us to two chairs facing the Empress.
As I took my seat, I saw Tafari sitting alone at one side
of the circular room, dignified and inscrutable.
We had been informed that this presentation would
be all, but, to our surprise, the tiny Empress, using as
interpreter the tall courtier who spoke French, began
to ask us questions in a soft rustling voice, often paus-
ing for several minutes to think out her questions. She
had been told, it seemed, that we were voyaging about
the world in a yacht. For a little while she made, what
seemed naturally curious, inquiries about our trip.
But gradually she adopted a particular line of thought.
It had to do with the independence of Eastern countries.
We soon began to see what interested her so much
and the reason. Abyssinia fears above all the imperial-
istic ambitions of foreign powers. Her people know
The Sea Gypsy
that every other part of Africa, except Liberia, which
unfortunately America keeps free, had been conquered
by Europe. So now Abyssinians suspect the Western
"And how many countries in all have you visited?"
the miniature sovereign asked at last.
Taylor and I consulted. The Wisdom had, in fact,
visited twenty-three groups of islands in its voyage
through the South Seas, Dutch Indies and up to Somali-
This we told the little Empress, sitting there on her
She thought a minute. "Are any of these countries
independent?" she asked. We consulted together
again. We had never thought of the matter in that
light before. But no — it was a fact, not a single one
was independent; and for my part I think that the
black and yellow and brown races are all better off
when dominated by white men. Yes, we said, Abys-
sinia was the very first free nation we had touched.
When we told the Empress this she seemed lost in
deep reflection, then, after a long pause asked: "Who
owns these colonies?"
"England — France — America — Holland," I replied.
This mention of specific names seemed to crystallize
a thought in the mind of the tiny sovereign. She said:
"Our Father, the Emperor Menelik, reunited and held
the Empire against all enemies. We also will keep our
country independent. We have no fear."
All this was through an interpreter, and since then I
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 83
have often wondered how much this woman ruler
actually said and how many words and thoughts her
secretary-interpreter conceived for her.
For an hour or more after this we talked on trivial
subjects and then paid our adieus. As we rode home
I let my bridle reins lie idle on my horse's neck, as I
reviewed the history of how Zaoditou had gained the
throne, for, though she was the only living child of the
former Emperor Menelik, when this powerful Monarch
died in 1 91 3 he left the sceptre, not to her but to his grand-
son, Lyg Yasu. A youth of 17 this Lyg Yasu — a daring
horseman and hunter, skilled with sword and spear and
rifle, he seemed the ideal leader of a warrior race. Nor
did his people love him less because of his savage blood-
lusts and mad affairs of gallantry with women. That
was the way of a true king with women — they said.
But as the young ruler grew into manhood, strange
rumours crept about. He was dismissing his Christian
servants, and gathering only Mohammedans about
him. And then, at last, came the word, whispered in
awe and anger — that the Emperor was secretly attend-
ing a Mohammedan mosque. Now this was some-
thing beyond the pale, for Abyssinia is a Christian
Empire. Its whole history during a thousand years
is that of the conflict of a lonely Christian Kingdom
against the surrounding hordes of Islam. And now,
from all over the land, rose threateningly the loud
muttering of the Christian leaders. The discontent
The Sea Gypsy
grew and grew until the subdued mutterings of the
Christian Chiefs swelled to a chorus of defiant protest.
But the young despot minded this opposition not at
all. He was dreaming a great dream. He would pro-
claim himself the new Mullah of the Mohammedan
World, convert his Empire to the religion of the Prophet
and, after, lead his quarter of a million fighting men as
the vanguard of a host with which to conquer all Africa
and form it into one great Islamic Empire.
This in 191 6, when the Western World was locked in
a death grapple on the Fields of Flanders, and the time
was ripe for such desperate action.
Boldly the young Warrior King made his attempt.
Swiftly he gathered an army of Mohammedans and
marched on his own Capital. But he had underesti-
mated the power of Christianity. Not for nothing had
Abyssinia held to the Faith through centuries of re-
ligious warfare. The great Christian Princes and
Dukes met at Addis-Abeba in solemn conclave. To
the head of the Assembly stepped a youthful lord in his
middle twenties — Tafari, the Prince of Harrar.
He had a plan, he said. Would his brother peers
listen to his words? The Council Chamber grew silent.
To meet war with war, was the only hope, Tafari told
the elder nobles as they sat cross-legged on cushions
about the Room of Talk. Act without fear, he said.
Have the Archbishop excommunicate this false Em-
peror, declare that the Crown of the Cross of Christ be
torn from Yasu's head — then choose a new ruler and
out to meet the traitor with the sword. As one man
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 85
the Princes of the Empire agreed — and far and above his
fellows stood Tafari as the choice for the new Emperor.
But Tafari was wise. He knew the force of Menelik's
name, and Lyg Yasu was Menelik's grandson. "No,"
he said. "We must rally our people in the name of our
great dead Emperor; and there is living among us
Zaoditou, Menelik's daughter. We will proclaim her
Empress and, if it be your will, I will rule in her name
as Regent and, after her death, inherit the throne."
Thus Tafari made Zaoditou, Menelik's childless
and middle-aged daughter, Empress of Abyssinia,
but retained the actual rule in his own hands. In
Zaoditou 's name he went forth to meet the excom-
municated Emperor and, twice beat the Mohammed-
ans to the earth, driving Lyg Yasu into the desert
with a handful of followers. For four years Yasu
wandered there until, at last, broken by thirst and
hunger and hardship, he rode back into captivity.
Now he sits in a palace, miles from Addis- Abeba,
living in luxury with his slaves and women — but a
prisoner for all that, fastened, it is said, by silver chains
to a close kinsman of the Prince Tafari. He has grown
fat and ugly, men say, and drinks and eats night and
day, ever striving to forget the time when he would
have united all Africa under his iron fist, for the faith
of the Prophet.
When my father was a young man, living in what
was then the sleepy little town of Jacksonville in
86 The Sea Gypsy
Florida, an old Confederate Officer came back one day
from 7ears of wandering. He had been serving in the
Army of the Khedive in Egypt, and he had a tale to
tell. The Khedive had had ambitions to extend the
frontiers of Egypt to Lakes Victoria and Albert Nyanza,
with a coast line running from Suez to Zanzibar. To
accomplish this he had raised an army equipped with
modern weapons and trained by veteran foreign officers
including a number of leaders of the "Lost Cause" of
the Confederacy. This army, some fifteen thousand
strong, had marched south into Abyssinia on a march
"That was the last of the Khedive's army," the old
Colonel told my father. "The Abyssinians almost
annihilated our entire force. I've fought against
Apaches and Mexicans and Yankees — damn 'em — but
for sheer pluck and fighting ability, believe me, young
man, the Abyssinian is as good a soldier as any of 'em."
Twenty years later, in 1896, the Western World
heard news which confirmed the opinion of this old
Confederate. During the height of the period of
Colonial expansion in Africa, the Italians had marched
into Abyssinia from the coast with an army of twenty-
two thousand men, one of the largest forces ever
organized to conquer a supposedly savage country.
Then, as if from out of the earth, the Emperor Menelik
had thrown himself upon the advancing Italians with
near a hundred thousand warriors. The white army
was almost completely destroyed. It was the most
crushing defeat a European Force has ever received at
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 87
the hands of natives. The prestige of Italy in Africa
has never recovered from it. And since then no Euro-
pean power has undertaken the conquest of Abyssinia.
Now I know these facts about the fighting qualities
of the Abyssinian soldier, and was therefore anxious to
see them in action. With this in mind I rode to Prince
Tafari's house one day and asked him to let us visit
any parts of Abyssinia where righting was going on;
but he answered that the Empire was at peace and that
but for a little guerilla skirmishing among the wild
tribes, there was no war to see.
"Then," said I, "would it be possible to witness a
part of your army in war manoeuvres?"
"Why, yes," the Prince calmly replied. "Would
early to-morrow morning please you?"
I looked at him in astonishment. How in the world
was he going to gather an army in one day? But I
1 ' Good, ' ' said Taf ari. ' ' I will be out on the plain with
my men at seven o'clock." He designated a great field
which lay not far distant from the Palace.
When I returned to our Palace there was consider-
able if somewhat sceptical elation. Some days before
Captain Salisbury had come up to join us from Jibuti
in French Somaliland, accompanied by a "Shorty"
Schoedsack, a very remarkable motion picture operator,
and an old friend of mine from days in Poland. Cap-
tain Salisbury had been forced to return owing to ill-
health, but Schoedsack had remained. Here was a
chance for a wonderful picture, if any army really did
88 The Sea Gypsy
appear. But where was the army to come from? We
had seen the numerous guards of the Palaces, and we
had seen the roads through and about Addis-Abeba
swarming with the gentry and their followers carrying
swords and rifles; but these did not make an army.
Nevertheless, that night Taylor, together with half
a dozen servants, built a platform thirty feet high,
from which Schoedsack might take motion pictures.
The next morning at daybreak, we were awakened
by Monsieur Abraham and an old resident of Addis-
Abeba. The lions at our Palace gate, as if scenting
some unusual event, were roaring lustily. The very air
tingled with excitement.
"Well, is there really going to be an army?" Taylor
asked, as we hopped out of bed and began to throw on
"Of course," said the man who had lived long in
Abyssinia. "All night long couriers have been riding
to the outlying lords."
Still, we did not understand. Then our acquaintance
explained. "It's this way, ' ' he said. ' ' The army which
you will see to-day is, like all feudal armies, made up in
great part, of the nobles and their personal followers.
You remember how, in England and in France, during the
Middle Ages, all the gentry kept their own retainers, and
you will recall how they battled against each other, and
even, secure in their own strongholds, defied the King.
Well, that was the state of affairs in Abyssinia when
Menelik came to the throne. Menelik immediately
began strengthening the power of the Crown, and one
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 89
of his best schemes was to order each year a number of
the nobles from distant provinces to the capital. When
they came, of course they brought with them a large
following of their vassals who, in return, brought their
men-at-arms. By this stratagem the Emperor always
had a preponderating force at Addis-Abeda, which was
ready to march instantly against any rebellious chief.
Prince Tafari has followed out this plan. To-day
nearly every provincial ruler has a town house in or
near Addis-Abeba, and there he lives when ordered to
the Capital. These nobles now on duty here, together
with their retainers, as well as the body-guards of the
Empress and Regent make up the army you will see
After breakfast we galloped out on the plain and set
about marking off a location with flags, within which
we hoped to mask a part of the troops for a charge.
We had just finished our work when Schoedsack
stretched his six-feet-five of brawn and muscle to its
uttermost and peered into the distance.
"Look, look, there they come!" he shouted down.
We looked, and far up on the hills we could see the
gleam and glitter of sun on steel.
"And there," Shorty called, "and there," pointing in
still a third direction.
From every side armed men were pouring down on
Half an hour more, and then up the other end of the
plain, there came riding a shining array of horsemen,
followed by a mass of men on foot. And then another
90 The Sea Gypsy
company — and another. And still another — and yet
on they came. It seemed as if the stream of warriors
As I rode forward to where the troops were massing,
my eyes were literally dazzled. From a distance it had
seemed a myriad of prismatic colors and glaring metals
upon a background of white and green and brown ; but
as I rode closer, the blurred outlines sharpened.
Over the end of the great field I could now see scat-
tered companies of warriors gorgeous beyond any
stretch of the imagination. Far down the plain, by
the hundreds, stretched these bands. And in the center
or before each detachment there sat proudly on horse-
back, surrounded by his mounted minor chieftains, the
Over-Lord who was master of the force.
As I approached within fifty yards of the nearest
mass, suddenly there broke forth from it a score of
mounted men. They came galloping straight at me.
Like flames sweeping across a burning prairie they
rode, and like flames they sparkled with vivid lights
and colors as the sun beat down on their accoutre-
At their head, riding with as mad and careless
abandon as the youngest of his warriors, sped an old
Detzmarch (General). Directly in front of me he
jerked his fiery little horse, caparisoned from head to
knees in vermilion silk, back on its haunches; then
brandished in greeting two long spears he carried in his
right hand, and swung to the ground.
Like one man his followers dismounted behind him.
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 93
I jumped from my horse. The Detzmarch and I
shook hands. But I could scarcely return his courteous
inquiries, I was so amazed. He was truly a magnificent
if somewhat gaudy sight. A head dress of lions' manes
quivered as he bowed. A long robe of Tyrian purple
silk rustled against his ankles when he stepped forward ;
and as he talked, he flung back a cloak of leopard skins,
exposing a stole of saffron velvet. He had handed his
spears to one of his squires, but on one arm he still
carried a round shield made of buffalo hides with an
outer layer of dark crimson leather, almost concealed
by heavy gold filigree studded with imitation gems.
By his side swung a long curved scimitar with a pommel
of rhinoceros hide m a silver and red velvet scabbard,
while the saddle, bridle, and other accoutrements of
his silk-covered horse, were embossed with precious
Behind him stood his feudatories scarcely less color-
ful than their Chieftain. We rode back together to
where his five or six hundred men-at-arms were leaning
on their rifles and spears. They were carrying bucklers,
slings and swords, and wearing white tunics which
dropped to their knees. Among these warriors there
stood in little groups, talking quietly, the Captains of
Tens, old soldiers, dressed in gay finery — bright silk
kerchiefs wound about their heads, coats of wild animal
skins, embroidered belts, and the like.
Then, as I rode slowly further down the lines, I saw
that every peer and his men presented a like appear-
94 The Sea Gypsy
And still from every side warlike parties poured down
from the hills.
I thought it impossible for this wild array ever to
form in military order ; but even as this thought flashed
through my mind, I heard the blare of trumpets and the
booming of war drums ; and away in the distance from
the palace gates of Prince Tafari a mass of men poured
I whirled my horse about and galloped down the
plain to tell Schoedsack to prepare — the show was
Then somehow — out of that huge mob, perhaps fif-
teen thousand strong — a column emerged, and began
to move down the field in orderly military precision.
The column drew closer. At the head rode a hundred
glittering chiefs in rows of twenty, shaking their spears
but holding with ease their cavorting horses, which
were mad with the lust of battle. On their heels a score
of men, dressed from head to foot in dark red, balanced
on their horses' backs great drums of buffalo hide,
which they pounded with the deep cadence of the
defiance to combat. Among the drummers, also on
horseback, rode white-robed minstrels, singing the wild
chants of the onslaught. Then the Detzmarch swept
by, surrounded by his glittering staff. After them fifty
abreast swung the lines of fierce warriors on foot, their
black faces savage as they listened to the sound of the
war drums ahead. Their hoarse battle-cries rose across
the plain: "Together, together — Slay, slay — God par-
don us, Christ!"
Guardians of the Lion of Judah 95
And ever came the deep war chants of the minstrels.
M Brothers, are you hungry, are you thirsty? Are ye
not birds of prey ? Forward ! Behold the flesh of your
" And I will be a carver at your feast. Forward! If
ye lack wine I will give you blood to drink!"
Hour after hour they came, these serried ranks on
horse and foot. It seemed as if they would never cease,
for ever reinforcements were sweeping onto the plain.
And then, at last, from far away, we heard again the
call of many trumpets. And we saw in the distance
what appeared to be a moving spot of golden light —
solid gold it looked from where we watched — followed
by a mass of glittering spears.
Nearer and nearer they came. The specks enlarged
into a thousand magnificent horsemen, surpassing any-
thing we had seen in barbaric riot of color and arms.
And the solid moving spot of gold dissolved into a figure
of man and horse. The horse was coal-black, tar-black,
pitch-black, blacker than any simile I can find to
describe it. The man was covered with a cloak of
ebon velvet, the very saddle he rode was black. But
this blackness was only a background ; viewed close at
hand, every inch of it showed to be covered with
golden motes, innumerable and uncountable, which
seemed to dance like live things at every movement
of the great beast.
Then the golden rider passed directly in front of us.
And we saw a man of thirty — his countenance grave
and serene. Gold was the crown upon his head; his
96 The Sea Gypsy
sable cloak was covered with spangles of gold and
closely woven figures in gold thread; his belt was a
band of golden links in which sparkled a hundred gems ;
the hilt of his sword was gold, encrusted with precious
stones ; gold was the scimitar's scabbard ; gold were the
embroideries on the black trappings of his black horse.
Man and horse formed a vision of black and gold —
gold — gold.
It was Tafari, Regent of Abyssinia, riding at the head
of the leaders of the Empire.
Taylor and I sat our horses, frozen in sheer wonder.
But from far above us, we heard Schoedsack's voice :
' ' Blankety , blank, blank ! " he yelled. "HI only had
a dozen cameras now!"
With the passing of the Prince the review of the
Army of Abyssinia ended. And while we went in to
have a drink with him, the plain was flooded by the
huge mob of warriors who cheered their champions at
the jousting. So ended a most remarkable day in that
most strange kingdom in the mountains of Africa.
Said Shorty as we rode home that evening: "I'll bet
the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court never
cast his peepers on anything half as wonderful as the
show we've seen to-day.* '
"as in solomon's day"
"VV/E devote millions to the uncovering of ancient
cities dead, and we neglect an ancient civiliza-
tion, living, a civilization which found its inspiration in
Solomon's Court, and which, preserving its Christian
faith through 1,600 years, and during many centuries
cut off from all contact with the outside world, hands
itself down to us in all essential respects identical
with that which prevailed in Bethlehem 2,000 years
From the writings on Abyssinia of Mr. Robert P.
Skinner, American Consul General in London, who led
the first and only American governmental expedition to
the Court of Abyssinia.
The great field which lies near the palace of the Prince
Regent was jammed with white-robed figures, perhaps
forty thousand. At one end of the plain, holding a
light rifle across his knees, sat Tafari on a high chair
covered with silken draperies and placed on a dark
red carpet. At his feet, on a purple cushion, sat the
King of Tigre, holding likewise across his knees a rifle,
98 The Sea Gypsy
but his was all inlaid with silver. An attendant held a
huge fringed silk parasol over the Prince; and behind
him stood a score of Chieftains and Chamberlains, all
armed with rifles and swords. The Prince wore a felt
hat, which rose to a high peak and had a brim which
spread out in an enormous drooping circle. All other
Abyssinians were uncovered.
Seated to one side of the monarch were the members
of the diplomatic corps, and Taylor and I — two Ameri-
cans. There were Major Dodds, British Consul, and
his wife, Lady Annabelle Dodds, the daughter of the
Marquis of Crewe, British Ambassador to Paris;
Monsieur and Madame Boccarin, of the French Lega-
tion; the Italian Charge d' Affaires; Monsieur Pierre
Elypes, former Governor of Reunion Island; Count
Bellefont, the Conseil d'Etat of Abyssinia, and his
young wife, and half a dozen others.
Before the Prince a wide space had been cleared, and
from this the mob was being held back by a company
of the bodyguard. Straight across this clearing and
facing Tafari were half a dozen of the strangest-
appearing figures I have ever seen. On their heads
they wore what looked like the upper frames of big
boxes. These frames were covered with hangings of
multi-colored silks, which dropped down like robes
about the silent figures.
"Those are the Chief Priests. Their costumes are
supposed to be replicas of those of the High Priests of
Solomon's Court," the Englishman sitting beside me
" As in Solomon's Day " 99
As he spoke, from each side of the open space
advanced thirty lower Priests, wearing white turbans
and carrying long staffs. At the end of each line
of the Holy Men walked young clerks beating on
huge drums, which they bore on slings about their
necks. Slowly the drums began to boom, and to their
solemn cadence the Priests began a swaying, rhythmic
dance, their high-pitched voices chanting the Psalms of
The bearded monarch, the attendant courtiers, and
the forty thousand watchers — except for that little
group of Europeans, and for the rifles which nearly
every man of the assemblage had swung across
his shoulder, and for the black faces of the mob,
it might have been a scene of thousands of years
ago with the High Priests of Judah dancing before
As I watched, my mind went back to the famous tra-
dition on which this Empire rested. I remembered that
no ruler could sit on the throne of Abyssinia who was
not supposed to bear in his veins the blood of King
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And I recalled, then,
the day, a month before, when I had first heard of this
It was in Jibuti, the sun-baked huddle of houses on
the Red Sea whence we had come up to Abyssinia.
Billings, the lone Englishman there, had introduced me to
a full-bodied, bald-headed man of forty, named Mayer.
Mayer was the son of a German, who had pene-
trated Abyssinia many years before, and of an Abys-
The Sea Gypsy
sinian noblewoman. When I met him, he was en route
to Europe. He was taking with him one of the two
existing copies, so he said, of the Sacred Book of Abys-
sinia. This is the Book of Makeda, whom we know as
the Queen of Sheba, and of King Solomon.
It tells of the meeting of this royal pair; of Makeda' s
seduction by the glorious monarch of Israel, of the
birth of their son, Menelik I, from whom the Emperors
of Abyssinia are directly descended.
The book is a great tome, written in Gheze, the
ancient Abyssinian tongue, and illustrated with striking
hand-painted pictures, many of which would cause the
censors of public morals in America to throw back-
handsprings of horror. It outdoes Boccaccio in telling
a risque yarn boldly and with no details omitted. It
tells a story; it does indeed.
We sat together — Taylor, Mayer, and I — in the
stuffy, tiny parlor of the French cafe, which is a bit of
France transferred complete to the American waste.
From outside in the dusty road came the cries of native
children as they squabbled in the glare of the white
tropical heat; an importunate old blind leper whined
for alms at the open door; the great book lay open
on the marble-topped table, and Taylor and I leaned
over it fascinated, as Mayer turned the pages and
told in his peculiarly accented English of the seduc-
tion of the Queen of Sheba by Solomon, and the
This, briefly, was the story of the Holy Book.
Makeda, whom we call the Queen of Sheba, the
11 As in Solomons Day" 101
Abyssinians recognize as a queen of Abyssinia. She
heard of the glory and wisdom of Solomon and, after
an exchange of gifts between them, determined to pay
him a visit. She arrived at Solomon's court with
camels laden with scents and precious stones. Solomon
received her in a room especially built of crystal from
floor to ceiling. In it was a throne for her, made of gold
and inlaid with diamonds and emeralds, the exact
duplicate of her throne in Abyssinia. The floor of the
room was of glass, so cunningly wrought that Makeda
thought that the brook running under it, in which swam
many-colored fishes, would wet her skirt. To escape
this she lifted her dress when crossing over. This gave
Solomon a chance to see her leg. So that when she
asked him what would cure a sore on her knee he was
able readily to tell her that it must have been already
cured, for she had none. In the evening, Solomon
gave Makeda a great feast, and pleaded that she tem-
porarily during her visit become one of his numerous
mistresses. But the Queen refused, saying she had
been chosen as Virgin queen, and could remain queen
only as long as she retained her virginity.
"I accept your decision," said King Solomon. "I
will not force you to give me anything you do not
"Ah," said the Queen of Abyssinia, much touched,
"I, also, am honest. Since I cannot give you your
desire, I will accept nothing from you."
And this gave the crafty monarch a chance to come
into his own field.
102 The Sea Gypsy
"So, so," said he, "then if you do take anything
from me, you will do what 1 wish."
"That I will," replied Queen Makeda.
Whereupon, Solomon instructed his steward to serve
nothing but highly spiced and thirst-begetting foods
and strong liquors, but no water. As a result of this,
during the night Queen Makeda became very thirsty
and sent her lady-in-waiting to get a pitcher of water.
Solomon was on watch by the fountain. He seized the
lady-in-waiting, declaring that she fell under the agree-
ment made by her mistress, and as she had taken
something from him she must now give over to his
desires. Queen Makeda, becoming impatient when her
lady-in-waiting did not return, went to the fountain
herself, and there Solomon, again on the look-out, made
his second capture of the evening.
When both Makeda and her lady-in-waiting became
in a hopeful condition they decided to return to Abys-
sinia. In Abyssinia each bore a son. When the boys
were half grown Makeda decided to return them to
their father, that he might acknowledge them. Upon
the arrival of the lads in Jerusalem Solomon became
afraid that Makeda was passing off some other man's
sons on him, so he put Menelik, the Queen's son, to a
test. He awaited him in a room in which there were
several other men dressed exactly as he. "If the boy
picks me out as his father, I will acknowledge him,"
said Solomon. Menelik entered, and seeing a man
with exactly the same face as he had always seen in the
mirror, for he greatly resembled his father, he went to
11 As in Solomons Day " 103
him. It was Solomon. Solomon clasped his son to his
When Menelik grew to manhood he became so much
like his father that the advisers of the King insisted
that he be sent away, saying that already the people
were not able to say who was King. Solomon was very
angry and refused. But the ministers insisted. Then
Solomon swore a great oath, and said, "Yes, I will send
him away ; but as I lose my son so must you lose yours.
The eldest son of every great noble in the kingdom
must go with him." Thus, when young Menelik
started for Abyssinia he was accompanied by fifteen
thousand of the most noble youths of Israel.
Solomon had made a duplicate of the Ark for his son
to take with him, but Menelik slipped into the Temple
and, as he looked so much like his father, fooled the
priests and took away the original Ark, substituting the
duplicate. When Solomon heard of this he sent horse-
men after the youth to rescue the sacred vessel, and
bring it back to Jerusalem. But the young man and the
Ark were already on the Red Sea. In Abyssinia Mene-
lik built a temple for the Ark at Axum, and there, the
Abyssinians believe, it rests to this day behind a sealed
door. Menelik was crowned Emperor of Abyssinia and
his half-brother was made a province governor. He
made his fifteen thousand Jewish attendants nobles of
Now as to the truth of this story as told by the
ancient book. Most of the noble class, and many
others, show a distinctly Jewish type. The court and
104 The Sea Gypsy
the church are modeled after those of Solomon; there
is said to be an Ark at Axum ; the Abyssinian priests go
on pilgrimages to Jerusalem ; and there are in Abyssinia
several ancient colonies of Jews called "Falashas"
(exiles) who possess in the old Gheze language the Old
Testament and several other ancient Jewish books.
True or not, the Abyssinians believe it, and because of
it believe that their rulers are the descendants of
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
The greatest market square of Addis-Abeba on a
Saturday noon is a sight worth going many days'
journey to see. From all the country round a score of
thousand peasants pour into the city, and gather in the
vast square to trade and barter. Mules, asses, camels,
horses, sheep, goats, crowd in between the squalid
booths, where, for great round silver Maria Theresa
dollars, or for cartridges, one can buy spears, crosses,
leopard and zebra skins, rhinoceros-hide whips, butter,
milk, jewelry, carpets, rugs, grain, ostrich feathers,
monkeys, shields, swords. And through the mass there
ride hundreds of country landowners and their followers,
all armed to the teeth, and women carrying tiny para-
sols of straw on the ends of sticks.
Schoedsack, Taylor, and I rode down to the market
one day with our interpreter, Bakalaw, a young Abys-
sinian whom the Prince had had educated in Paris.
Sitting by the side of the road we saw a young man and
"As in Solomon s Day" 105
a young woman chained together wrist to wrist, by a
long iron chain. There was no guard with them.
"What kind of prisoners are those, anyway?" asked
Bakalaw smiled. "Those are not prisoners at all,"
he responded. "That man owes the woman money,
and she is collecting it."
1 ' What ! How ! Why ! " we all three exclaimed.
"Yes," said Bakalaw, "Those are creditor and debt-
or. The man owed the woman money, and wouldn't
pay, so she went to the judge, and, as is the custom
with us, the judge ordered the court officers to shackle
the man to her until he pays up. They will have to
stay chained together until the relatives of the man
scrape together sufficient money to settle the
"Is a bad debt always collected in that manner?"
1 'Yes," said Bakalaw.
"That's the darndest way of getting your money
back I've ever heard of," said Taylor. "I think I'd
let a fellow just go on owing me."
Bakalaw shrugged his shoulders. "Then you lose
your money," he said.
After this, for the life of me, every time I saw couples
walking along chained together I could not help laugh-
ing despite the sympathy I felt for the creditor.
Some days later I was talking with Mr. Collier, the
manager of the Abyssinian Bank.
"How about it, Collier?" I asked. "Do you have a
io6 The Sea Gypsy
whole string of note defaulters chained to you most of
He smiled. "We've found a way out of that," he
replied. "I've built a private jail for the bank in our
grounds, and hired a little army of my own. When a
man doesn't pay on the nail I order the captain of the
bank's army to go out and catch the debtor. Then,
when my army nabs the chap, I stick him into the
bank's prison until his wife or friends put up the money
to get him out again. A very satisfactory arrangement
it is, too. I suppose some of your bankers in the States
would like to adopt it."
After these revelations, I began to investigate a little
into Abyssinian law. I found it based literally on the
old Mosaic law of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth." Its written code is called "The Law of Fetha
Nagast," and is that of the ancient Coptic Church.
But custom, too, plays a large part. Many of the laws
would seem to American standards quite drastic, par-
ticularly those for homicide; for it is the rule that he
who kills must be delivered over to the family of the
man he murdered, to be executed by them. Murder
and accidental killings are both punished by death.
Not even the Empress or Regent has the power of
pardon. However, the family of the dead man may
accept "blood-money" instead of taking the life of the
killer. But if the family refuses the ''blood-money"
they must kill the murderer in exactly the same fashion
as he has taken the life of his victim.
This law has brought about some queer cases. It is
"As in Solomon's Day n 107
recounted that some years ago, during Menelik's reign,
a man, who was working high up in a tree cutting off
a limb, fell and, landing squarely on a peasant, who
was sleeping below, killed him. It was without a
doubt an accident; but the dead man's brothers ap-
peared before the Emperor, who alone could proclaim
the death sentence, and demanded the life of the hap-
"Our brother is dead!" they cried. "Let his slayer
"But, my children," replied the wise old ruler,
"surely the man never fell on your brother purposely.
Accept, I advise you, the money which this man offers,
and go your way in peace."
"No," the brothers responded. "A life for a life.
That is the law."
Then the Emperor reflected for a moment, and his
face grew stern. " It is well," he said. "Such, in truth,
is the law, and the law must be obeyed." He turned to
the Captain of his Guard. "Take the prisoner and
place him under the tallest tree you can find. Then
have these two brothers who demand his life carried to
the topmost branches of that tree, and from there
throw them down upon the prisoner, and continue
throwing them down as many times as is necessary,
until the prisoner below is killed."
Upon hearing this sentence the brothers cast them-
selves at the feet of the Emperor and announced their
willingness to accept the blood-money.
"No," said Menelik. "You asked for this man's
108 The Sea Gypsy
death. That is the law. But the law says you must
kill him in just the same manner that he killed your
brother. Take it, or nothing."
The brothers decided to take nothing.
But in cases of direct murder the families of the
victim take the killer down beside the railroad station,
and there publicly stab or shoot him, as the case may be.
There is another law against brigands and robbers
which has made almost the boast that "a child might
leave Addis-Abeba with a cow and lead him to the
borders of the Empire without molestation." That law
is one that requires the public hanging or mutilation
of brigands. Around the town were placed gallows.
And we were informed that incorrigible thieves also
have their hands and feet cut off. The law expressly
forbids that both hands and both feet be cut off, so it is
customary to simply hack off the right hand and left
foot. This performance is also a public one, and very
beneficial for public morals. The Prince Regent, out
of consideration, I was told, of our supposed tender
sensibilities, held no public executions or mutilations
during our stay.
I quote a few passages from the second book of the
Pentateuch which example the severity of the law,
which is carried out to the letter.
"If someone be found who has stolen the soul of his
brother, or has excited and aided in the sale of a lost
soul, he shall suffer the pain of death."
"If a man enters the church and takes away one of
the sacred emblems, let the cross be laid upon him with
"As in Solomon's Day " 109
a red-hot iron; and he who does likewise outside the
church, let him be pursued, and let his head be shaved,
and let him be exiled.
"Those who steal free or slave children, or who ravish
the country of the domestic animals, our law commands
that they be killed or exiled.
"He who steals an animal of another, for the first
offence let him be pursued, the second time exiled, and
the third time let his hands be cut off, and the animal
returned to its owner.
"Whosoever is a chief of brigands and a homicide,
let his hands be cut off, likewise the hands of those who
"Those who steal in a city, for the first time, if they
are rich and free, let them pay to the loser the double
of the things stolen; if they are poor, let them be pur-
sued and exiled, and if they repeat the offence, let their
hands be cut off.
"Nocturnal robbers visiting dwellings with arms
merit death ; and robbers by day, who give fear to the
people, and steal from the sacks of grain, and who
break bolts, let them be taken before parents, and made
to pay for that which is stolen.
"Whosoever steals during a fire, or when a house
collapses, or during a shipwreck, and those who fraudu-
lently receive stolen goods, they shall pay four times as
much as that which they have stolen.
"Whosoever robs the dead of their clothing, let his
hands be cut off, but the law xorbids the cutting off of
both hands and both feet at the same time."
no The Sea Gypsy
Since I have returned from Abyssinia, the question I
have been asked the most frequently is "How is it that
Abyssinia has remained free, while all the rest of Africa
has been conquered ? " My belief is that this is because
the ruling class is not of negroid blood. The pure-
blooded Abyssinians, however, are only a small per-
centage of the population, yet they have managed to
retain power over the far more numerous people of the
negroid race. The late Professor Littman, of Princeton
University, who investigated in Abyssinia in 1 905-1 906,
said the true Abyssinian type "contains no negro blood
whatever, and none of the negro qualities, either physi-
cal or mental," and they are described by German
scientists as being a mixed Hamito-Semitic people.
Personally, I should say that, from appearance, the
ruling class has a strong strain of Jewish blood.
In fact, the pure-blooded Abyssinian, whatever his
shade of color, whether olive or black (and most I saw
were of the latter color), hotly resents being considered
a negro, whom he looks on as one of a slave people. In
regard to this, Mr. Skinner relates how, when he was
traveling by caravan from the coast up to Addis-
Abeba, and had camped for the night, he noticed a
tent being erected several hundred yards away. A
little later a servant brought him a card, on which was
inscribed "Commandant Benito Sylvian, Envoy of
his Excellency the President of the Republic of Haiti,
to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia."
A few minutes afterwards Commandant Sylvian, a full-
11 As in Solomon's Day " in
blooded negro, of course, arrived in a splendid uniform
— varnished Wellington boots, spurs, white breeches,
sword, and an order sparkling upon his breast.
Commandant Sylvian was on a special mission. Con-
cerning this mission, Mr. Skinner writes that "Mr.
Sylvian conceived the happy idea some years ago of
seeking Emperor Menelik in order to secure His Majes-
ty's adhesion to a programme for the general amelio-
ration of the negro race. To Mr. Benito Sylvian it
seemed especially appropriate that the greatest black
man in the world should become the honorary president
of the projected society. The Emperor is said to have
listened with great patience to the exposition of this
idea, and then, with that fine, dry humor characteristic
of him, he replied :
"Yours is a most excellent idea, my young friend.
The negro should be uplifted. I applaud your theory,
and I wish you the greatest possible success. But in
coming to me to take the leadership you are knocking
at the wrong door, so to speak. You know, I am not a
negro at all; I am a Caucasian."
It is interesting to note also that in the Abyssinian
paintings good men are represented as white and bad
men as black.
However, the Abyssinian nobles have committed the
same great error as the Arabs in the coast towns of
Yemen. A slave-owning people, they have for centuries
had numbers of negro slave women in their households,
by whom they have had children. As a result, a strong
negroid strain has been introduced into even part of the
ii2 The Sea Gypsy
ruling class. If the Empire falls, this will be the chief
contributing cause, for the negro race has always been,
and will continue to be, an inferior one, incapable of
And so closes Cooper's story of his visit to that feudal
kingdom of Northeast Africa. Ten hours after he and
Schoedsack and Taylor had reached Jibuti again the
Wisdom headed out to sea — once more gypsying down
strange sea trails.
THE LOST SEA PEOPLE OF SUMATRA
' I 'HE Wisdom journeyed one spring up through the
Golden Indies. She stopped for a little at the
tiny island of Bali, where the women are lovely beyond
men's dreams and the gorgeous green mountains rise
up against an ever-blue sky; she visited Java, that
narrow island packed with teeming millions ; and then
rested for a long, long time in the port of Singapore
— where she lay, a low, graceful white shape amidst the
high Chinese junks. Then one day we sailed her across
the straights of Malacca, stopping only on an island of
the true Sea Gypsies which lay across our track, and
finally sighted the green coasts of Sumatra, with the
great mountains rising from its heart and stretching
north and south as far as the eye could see.
We sailed up a dark jungle river, with the monkeys
chattering monkey curses at us from the low branches
on either side, and the crocodiles, as they lay with their
noses on the edge of the mud, dreaming of juicy little
Malays, and everybody aft muttering "mosquitoes —
malaria." But little Johnny, Andy, and the rest of the
The Sea Gypsy
crew sighed deep sighs of content; this looked like a
little bit of home.
We anchored in midstream off the dirty little Malay
town of Belawan. It was hard to realize, down in that
murky dank stillness, so cut away from everything,
that we had really come into one of the principal ports
of the fifth largest island in the world, and that in the
uplands of this island a hundred miles away from us on
a great, cool plateau there lived, near a mountain lake
so big and so beautiful that the Dutch, the rulers of
Sumatra, have called it a sea, a strange race of proud,
untamed little brown people called Bataks. These
Bataks were the people we were planning to "go see."
From Belawan we went up to Medan, a clean, model
little city which the Dutch have built in the last genera-
tion. This is the haven of refuge for the men from the
lonely rubber plantations in the jungle, but it is still
more deeply loved by the Dutch officials who rule over
the Achinese in Sumatra. After seventy years of war-
fare the Dutch have not yet completed the subjection
of Achin, and when a man of Achin wants to reach
Paradise he goes out and kills a Dutchman and keeps
on killing Dutchmen until he himself is killed. How-
ever, of late the Achinese have not been quite so fierce,
for they live under the threat of "The Tiger," that
half-caste general who but a few years ago marched
straight through the land of their border brothers and
left half of the males of a whole people dead behind him.
Now the Bataks, whose country we were to enter,
have only been fourteen years under white domination,
Temple Gateway in the Island of Bali, Dutch East Indies
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 117
and their reputation, though somewhat better than
that of the Achinese, was not too good, so when I
announced that we — Burghard, Cooper, a camera man
and I, of the ship's company of the Wisdom — were
going into the Batak country one man drew me aside
and said: "Keep your eyes open when you go alone
among them. The Toba-Bataks around the big moun-
tain lake, Toba Meer, are all right — they are completely
conquered; but look out for the mountain Bataks.
Four years ago one tribe of them took their Dutch
Controleur, pinned him against a wall, and cut him to
pieces with their knives. Then they ate the palms of
his hands, and the soles of his feet, and his tongue.
They said they did it because with his hands he wrote
their laws, and because he used his feet to walk among
them, and his tongue to give orders. So, look out.
They aren't very fond of white men "
After listening to this gloomy advice, our journey's
end proved quite a surprise. We rode all day up
through jungle-covered mountains until we came at
last up on a plateau, cool and high, cut off from the
world by a ring of smoking volcanoes. For twenty
miles we went along this, seeing on every side a wide
expanse of prairie-like fields, dotted here and there with
tiny forests; then at last arrived at a low bungalow
set on a bit of green grass, on the porch of which stood
a tall young white man spectacled and unarmed.
He greeted us cheerfully in good English: "I am the
Controleur of this district. My name is Mulder.
Come in, please."
n8 The Sea Gypsy
There, in the cool little house, we were introduced
to his young wife and his two rollicking babies. They
were living — with only a handful of native constabulary
to protect them — in the center of the savage race over
which Mulder was in actuality supreme ruler. During
the days we stayed in his country, Mulder acted as our
host and guide. We rode with him to the outlying
villages of his people, and from him learned something
of their native customs, as well as the part that a lone
white man may play as the monarch of an alien race.
Mulder's people, the Karo-Bataks, are water dwellers
who have lost their sea, for once their country was
probably covered by an inland sea which burst its
high wall and rushed down to the ocean. They worship
demons, yet they have a cultivated written language
resembling ancient Phoenician, and they play chess
with the skill of the habitues of Vienna and Warsaw
coffee houses. The men dress in gay-colored skirts, ride
bareback, like our Western Indians, and carry long
knives, with which they hack each other to pieces on
the slightest pretext. The women have lovely forms,
and their graceful one-piece slips and turbans of blue
are so exactly alike that you would think them nurses
or nuns of some order; they drag crude wooden ploughs
like beasts and do all the manual labor, but they have
such a hardy independence that they hang themselves
when they fail to have children or are forced to marry
men they hate, and before dropping into space light
fires under their bodies so that they may roast and
choke to death at the same time.
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 119
The villages of the Karo-Bataks are as interesting as
their inhabitants. Looking down on the plateau from
the side of one of its encircling mountains, it appears
to be an uninhabited plain dotted with tiny forests.
But these, in reality, are thin circles of trees and brush
enclosing the villages like walls, and entirely hiding
them. The big, beautiful houses, built without nails,
look like ships on stilts. These the people call "boats,"
as they call their villages "islands," though most of
them have never seen a real boat or any body of water
larger than a stream. These names have come down
from the long-ago time before their sea flowed away
and left them. The houses have thatched roofs, curved
fore and aft like the lines of a ship and decorated with
elaborately carved buffalo heads to protect the dwellings
from the attacks of evil spirits. From six to twenty
families sleep on the single deck-like floor of each
house, which is divided by a long passage running
through it, with a balcony at either end. These
"boats," near which are curious rice barns and buffalo
sheds, are built around a central square, in which is a
"club house," a block for stamping rice, and a fenced-
off garden containing the magic flowers of the Garou,
the medicine man.
Sometimes, also, in the square is a small house-
monument, painted in many colors and covered with
images of snakes, imps and unmentionable parts of the
human body. Made fast to the rafters of this is the
skeleton of the rich man who had erected it in his honor
before his death. It is placed there two or three years
120 The Sea Gypsy
after the man's death, when his family dig it up. In
one village I observed an especially elaborate house-
monument, and praised it, but Mulder frowned.
"Pretty enough," said he. "But the man whose
bones rest there was a murderer and all-round scoundrel.
Now, whenever anyone around is planning mischief he
creeps out here in the night and prays to it. Then he
goes away ready for any deviltry."
Such spirit worship is a decided factor in the Karo-
Batak life. With their hatred of foreign domination
they have refused to listen to missionaries, and have
kept the demon worship of their forefathers. One day
I noticed a woman, who was carrying a bag of rice on
her head, stop and sneeze. Then, as quick as a flash,
she threw off the bag, held out her hand and began to
cluck excitedly, as if she were calling runaway chickens.
I looked around but no fowls could I see; and the
woman, without more to-do, picked up her bag and
walked calmly off. "She was afraid the good spirits
were flying out of her body with the sneeze, and was
calling them back," Mulder explained to me that night.
In another house I observed a house with a sort of
window cut in the side. I was surprised for it was the
first window I had seen in any Karo-Batak dwelling.
The reason for it was that a man was lying dead within,
and the family had made the hole to pass the body
through, for they had not dared to carry it out the door,
for fear that his ghost might remember how it went
out and find its way back again. It had no chance to
get back through the hole, for this they closed imme-
On Lake Toba, Sumatra
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 123
diately after the body was slid through it. They
carried the corpse a mile away from the village to bury
it, and by a roundabout route, so that it would not
recognize the road back, and they buried it facing away
from the village for the same reason. Under its arm-
pits they placed eggs, thinking that it would not dare
to get up for fear of breaking them. As a final precau-
tion, for a few days after the funeral the relatives of the
dead man dressed in their oldest clothes, so that, if the
ghost did manage to find its way back, it would not be
jealous of them, and would go away again and leave
them in peace.
Another peculiar custom of the Karo-Bataks about
spirits is the attempt of the old men to fool the Death
Demon. An elderly man, when he thinks his days on
earth are almost through, will invite all his friends to
his funeral on a certain day. When they arrive, appar-
ently a corpse is lying there in state dressed in the
host's best clothing; but it is really only a log of wood
carved to resemble a man. This log is carried to the
grave, followed by the mourners weeping as loudly as
possible, and buried with all ceremony. The old man
hopes that the Death Demon will notice the funeral
and, believing that he is already dead, will not come
I once ran athwart one of these customs of spirit
worship, and in doing so violated the second clause
of a very good rule in dealing with savage peoples. The
first part of that rule is to let the women strictly alone,
and the second is never to interfere with their religious
The Sea Gypsy
customs. On this occasion, accompanied only by one
of my crew and a Malay who spoke Batak, we were
passing near a village, which, as usual, was hidden
from view by a small circle of high trees and thick
shrubbery, when we saw by the roadside, a sort of sedan
chair covered with fresh leaves and flowers, in which
sat three wooden figures the size of small dolls. We
thought it would make an interesting photograph, and
I took my camera out of its case. At this, an old Batak
woman, who had been standing near by holding the
hand of a child screamed, and turned and ran for the
village, while the Malay cried out, "The people will be
angry, Tuan. That is their dead chief and his wives."
But we had already started off with the thing, so we
carried it out into the center of the road, set it down,
lifted out the statues of the chief and one of his wives
and propped them up against the side of the con-
veyance, so that they would show in the picture. Then
I took a snap of them. While I was focusing for a sec-
ond time, a number of Bataks came out from the
village, shouting angrily, and my companion said,
"Look out, here come some natives with their knives."
But they did not attack us as I finished photographing.
As we returned the chair to its original position the
Bataks kept up their clamor, and their voices followed
us far down the road when we went away. "Oh, Tuan, ' '
the Malay said, "those people say you will be forever
followed and cursed by the ghost of their chief, for a
year ago he died, and this day he returned to his people
and was there inside of the doll."
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 125
One of Mulder's chief problems is to make life easier
for the women of his people, for they, in truth, have a
hard time. Among the Karo-Bataks the man is truly
Lord and Master; the woman only a worker. The
women plough, hoe, pound rice, cook, sew, weave and
dye ; and one sees their blue -draped figures everywhere
along the roads with ploughs or sacks balanced on their
heads. The only burden I ever saw a man carry was
a horse-hide mat ; every man has one of these and never
goes out without it. Whenever he meets an acquaint-
ance down goes the mat on the ground, and the two
men collect a handful of pebbles, give them names,
mark out a chessboard in the sand and fall to playing.
The next man who comes along stops to watch the
game, and the next, until at last there is a congenial
group. The game does not break up until the women
come back from the fields to prepare a meal for their
The only thing for which a man will stop a chess
game is to fight. Each man carries a long knife thrust
swaggeringly in his sash, and this he is trained to use
from boyhood. As the Karo-Bataks are a high-
tempered and quarrelsome race they fight often, and
every year Mulder has to punish several hundred of
them for stabbing comrades. Just before we came to
their country, Mulder's court, which is composed of
five chiefs, with him as presiding officer, gave an eight-
een-year-old lad a six-year sentence for killing a man
over a chess game. The boy was a guest at the older
126 The Sea Gypsy
man's house. They played chess. The boy won. The
man refused to pay the small sum wagered on the game.
"You mustn't ask for money," he said. "I am your
host, and I only let you win because I wished to be
polite. You played stupidly." The boy's answer was
to stab his host through the heart.
Sometimes, however, a man will not revenge an in-
sult so quickly. He says nothing, but arms himself
with a special knife, fitted with a curved handle which
lies snugly in the hand while the blade is hidden under
his loose sleeve. When he catches his enemy unawares,
out flashes the knife, and the man is dead before he has
a chance to draw his weapon. Another little way a
Karo-Batak has of obtaining vengeance — and this
method is in high favor among the women — is to cut
up palm-leaf fiber into tiny bits, sprinkle them into
some delectable dish and invite his (or her) enemy to a
feast of reconciliation. The visitor eats, and the fiber
points act like ground glass in his stomach ; as there are
no post-mortem examinations in that country, this is
considered an excellent method of doing away with a
rival. Other ways of revenge are to thrust pointed
canes into the bodies of a foe's water buffaloes and horses
during the night, and to trample down his fields. When
Mulder's police go to a village to arrest a man guilty of
one of these crimes they often find that another man
comes forward and holds out his wrists for the shackles.
This substitute is the criminal's "Anak-Baroe" or
"shadow," for when a man marries, one of the brothers
of his bride becomes his shadow, and must be ready to
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 129
answer for his brother-in-law even with his life, for this
is the custom of the land. However, Mulder refuses to
punish the shadows, but, to the consternation of all,
demands the actual criminal.
The men never walk when they can ride, which is
nearly always, for each man has one or more mountain
ponies. I used to see men riding about apparently
aimlessly, and I remarked about this to Mulder.
"They are going to visit their wives," said he.
"But don't their wives live at home?" I asked,
Mulder explained. It seems that each Batak man
has several wives, and for each of these he has a home.
When he marries, the Chief of the bride's village assigns
him a place in a house there, and gives him a plot of the
village land. When he takes a second wife, he gets
another home in the second village; for a third wife, a
third home, and so on. So he spends much of his time
riding from village to village visiting his different wives.
Each wife works her rice field for him, and keeps up an
establishment, supplying him with what money he
wants for gambling. All he has to do is to assist in the
breeding of children. The more wives he has the richer
he is. Girl children also mean wealth, for they can do
a certain amount of productive labor. The girls are
practically sold as wives, and for that reason their
virginity is protected, as they are more valuable so.
The Dutch decided that if the Karo-Bataks were
going to treat their women as property they would have
to pay taxes on them, so now the women are on the
The Sea Gypsy
same tax list as horses and cattle, and a Batak man
must pay a six per cent tax on each woman over eight-
een years old in his many households. As every able-
bodied one is considered to be worth a hundred guilders
(about thirty dollars), and as each Karo-Batak has
from three to five families, this amounts to quite a sum.
Many a Karo-Batak girl deliberately has a child by
some young man she likes, in order to decrease her
value on the marriage market, thinking thus she may
escape being sold to an old man, and be given to her
young lover for a small price.
But the girls sometimes lose their virginity in another
fashion, because at the harvest festival, after the danc-
ing and feasting, every man is allowed to take any
woman he can catch. Mulder sent fifty men and forty
women to jail for such a celebration recently. This
did not please the village elders, who came to him to
protest. "We have no chance, like the young men, to
get a pretty girl every day," they said. "This was our
one fine opportunity, and now you would ruin it. It
is not good." But Mulder would not yield, so it seems
the old men have lost their great day of the year.
But the part Mulder plays with the Karo-Bataks is
a far greater one than that of an administrator of laws.
He is a transplanter of the white man's civilization.
The white man, as a famous American writer once
said, is driven on by some force within himself to
"farm the world." He comes pushing through the
jungle and forest to where a people have cheerfully
lived as cannibals or head-hunters for the past few
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 131
thousand years, and says to himself, "Here, here!
This won't do. The idea of these fellows cutting up
like that!" Then he himself proceeds to kill right and
left until he has cured this strange people of their bad
habits. Then he says, ' ' Now that all is law and order in
the land, I must teach this folk the way of civilization."
And he looks about him, and begins to dream of bridges
and roads and irrigation systems. And it annoys him
immensely when the native show unmistakably that
they want none of these changes.
Of all the ' ' Makers of civilization " I have met during
considerable wandering Mulder was perhaps the most
level-headed about this. ' 4 Change must come natural-
ly," he told us. "Simply because we have what we
believe to be a superior civilization does not mean that
the native will also think so. So if you change the con-
ditions under which he lives, you must show him how
to meet the new life. And you must show him by ex-
amples a thousand times repeated."
' ' For example : By taking over this country we Dutch
have immeasurably increased the security of life.
Before, due to frequent tribal wars, all members of a
tribe were forced to live close together in one unsani-
tary, compact village. That gave protection. Now
this is no longer necessary. But what good is it to tell
the Bataks so? None. They only know that their
forefathers have lived in one manner, and they can
understand no change from that. So, instead of giving
them orders or lectures, I have built, and am continu-
ing to build, roads and roads and more roads. I let the
132 The Sea Gypsy
men pay their part of the taxes by work on the roads.
And by the side of one of the first roads I had con-
structed a one-family house. Then I found a family
to live in it.
"For months nothing happened. Then the Karo-
Bataks saw that the wives of this man who lived directly
on his field — instead of in a village several miles from
it — saved the long walk in the morning and the evening
back and forth to and from work. They also saw that
the life of this family was happier than those who dwelt
in a huge house where twenty families squabble to-
gether. And so many have already left the huddled
villages and come out and made their homes along the
roads. This has already begun to make a difference in
the life of the people. And, what is more important,
the life of the woman seems to be easier under such
conditions. She has obtained a larger place in life.
"There is another difference, due to the security
brought by white domination. Formerly, because of
the constant tribal wars, there was always a large death
rate. Now that these have been discontinued the
population is increasing. It is a problem I must meet,
for with the Bataks' antiquated methods of agriculture
— the use of the oldest known form of plough and even
of two pointed sticks to break ground — they were
unable to raise sufficient food to feed the entire popula-
tion. Again I must show by example. I have ordered
modern ploughs and a Ford tractor. But I will force
no one to use it. Example, always example, as with
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 135
"To meet this food problem I must also bring under
development the large tracts of waste land not hitherto
under cultivation. There is plenty of water on the
plateau for irrigation; but no money for the work.
Now, I have a scheme to get the money. You have
seen the enormously heavy silver earrings that a few
of the older women wear, and the younger on festival
occasions. These are going out of fashion, so to speak,
with the Karo-Bataks. And there are 20,000 pairs of
such earrings among my people. Their weight amounts
to 40,000 kilos of silver, worth probably two million
guilders. There is the money for the irrigation. But I
cannot requisition them for this work. I must try the
arts of persuasion. I must show an irrigated field, and
thus prove to the Karo-Bataks that it is real wealth,
far greater than the wealth of silver ornaments. Then
perhaps I can persuade the Council of Chiefs to advise
their people to bring in the earrings for me to sell.
Thus, I hope to irrigate the land."
These were a few of the plans of this wise young
Dutch governor, with which he hoped to enable his
people to meet the change brought about by white
We were anxious to see a Karo-Batak marriage
ceremony, but as at that time there were no marriages
among the rich families who could afford an elaborate
festival, Mulder was kind enough to stage one for us,
so that we might make pictures of it. This took place
in a large village, some eight miles from his house. I
do not remember ever having seen a more picturesque
136 The Sea Gypsy
sight than the one which greeted us when we came out
of the little forest into the village. Hundreds of natives
were in the center of the square; barefooted women in
graceful indigo-blue robes tucked in just above their
breasts, leaving bare lovely arms and necks and shoul-
ders, many wearing gold and silver ornaments ; the men
in gay colored sarongs and turbans, the elaborately
carved handles of their knives showing above their
sashes; and a horde of naked brown youngsters — all
standing about the ceremonial circle, which was bor-
dered with fresh green plants and flowering bushes;
while on every side were the great houses, their carved
bullock heads glaring down at us from the thatched
roofs. This scene has as a natural background of
beauty a huge green and brown and purple mountain,
with soft white clouds breaking about its peak.
At one side of the circle the musicians sat cross-legged
on the ground, and, no sooner had we entered the village
gate than they greeted us with flutes and drums and
brass tom-toms, playing a song of welcome, while three
men and three girls danced forward singing: "The
strangers have come to our home. Let us greet them
with smiles and rejoicing. Oh, welcome, strangers."
The chief, an upstanding middle-aged man in an
incongruous European white coat, shook hands with us,
and led us to seats at one side of the circle. The dancers
stopped and bowed, and two men — one small with a
pugnacious little moustache, the other tall and lean
and graceful as a greyhound — took their places. They
walked to opposite ends of the dancing mat. Then
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 137
each drew a knife, and, with a scornful gesture, threw
it into the center of the circle.
Then began the famous ''Dance of the Knife," for
which every Karo-Batak man is trained, as the move-
ments used in it are the same as those employed in
actual knife duels. The music took a defiant, crowing
note. It sounded as if two cocks were challenging each
other; and I noticed that in this, as well as in the other
dances, that both the musicians and the dancers seemed
to imitate some familiar animal of field or forest. In a
wonderfully timed and variated series of steps and
gestures the men rushed forward, back, and forward
again; then, with fierce gesticulations — all as ever, in
time with the music — they snatched up their knives
and fell to. Stab and thrust, the steel glittered in the
sunlight, as the fighters circled about each other,
nostrils distended and eyes gleaming, until with a
sudden motion as swift as the spur thrust of a bantam
cock striking for the kill, the little man grasped the
other's knife arm, wrenched it sideways and down,
forcing him to his knees. The aggressor swung up his
weapon for the death blow, when the man at his feet
broke loose and flung away in a desperate whirl. They
closed again, and this time each managed to grip the
knife wrist of his opponent; and they stood, breast
heaving against breast, knives forced high in the air,
as their bodies swayed back and forth. Then both
knives fell to the ground, and the men fought for each
other's throat. Now the big man suddenly caught his
game little enemy by the neck and waist and hurled
138 The Sea Gypsy
him to the ground, and grasping a knife almost with the
same movement appeared to plunge it into the loser's
breast. Then he proudly placed one foot on the appar-
ently lifeless body, and swung his blade high in the air
in a triumphant gesture.
We applauded, for at no time, though the dance was
as scientific a contest as a fast-fought match or saber
duel, did the performers for a single movement lose
time with the music.
As the fighters retired, a little old man carrying a
long stick trotted out. His face was so wizened and
wrinkled that he looked like a monkey. That just fitted
his part, for he gave "The Monkey Dance." He placed
the pole on the mat, and wiggled about it for all the
world like the red-jacketed, human-appearing little
animal, which, when I was a small boy, the Italian organ
grinder used to send climbing up to my mother's window,
where I would be waiting with a penny for it. Finally,
the old monkey dancer placed the pole upright, and,
making hideous grimaces, swung around and around it.
Our camera man, who had pushed his movie camera
near, so as to take a "close-up" suddenly looked up
with an expression of blank amazement on his face,
for the monkey man with one swift movement had
hopped right up to the camera and thrust his distorted
countenance directly up against the lens. The savage
audience howled with glee.
Then followed "The Dance of the Joke," when two
men with small poles, pretended that heavy burdens
were attached to them. These comedians fell all over
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 141
each other in their efforts to raise their sacks of imagina-
tion, and they, as the others who had preceded them,
never lost the rhythm of the music, even in their wildest
slap-stick comedy antics.
They went away, and now, above the sound of the
drums and tom-toms, the flutes shrilled high, imitating
the sound of male and female birds calling to each other.
Two girls, of about fifteen, very shy, faced a group of
smiling men. The girls swayed lightly back and forth,
retreating as the men danced forward, twisting their
bodies amorously. Then an older man rushed out and
scolded the girls for running away. Whereupon they
permitted the men to advance and the two groups
sang to each other.
During the dancing I had been watching the audience,
for it, indeed, was as interesting as the dancers. Seated
on a mat across the circle from the musicians were three
young girls, as pretty of their type as you could wish
to see. They were dressed far more elaborately than
any of the other women. In addition to the single blue
slip tucked in over the breasts, these girls had high
collared blue jackets embroidered with black cloth,
left open so as to expose their rounded necks, while
their new blue cloth headdresses hung down until they
reached below their waists. On each side of the head-
dresses were attached the heavy round silver ornaments
which nearly all Karo-Batak women own, but which
the younger ones rarely wear except at festivals. Their
fingers were loaded down with huge gold rings, cut in
142 The Sea Gypsy
At the conclusion of the Flirtation Dance, these girls
got slowly to their feet, and clinging tightly to each
other's hands, and never raising their eyes from the
ground, walked timidly to the center of the circle. All
eyes were on them. There was no sound now but the
slow boom of the tom-tom and that of one flute trilling
some gentle measure.
' 'The bride and her bridesmaids," whispered Mulder.
They were shy, oh, very shy. No persuasion could
make them face the camera — then. But they danced
a slow, easy dance together, and very beautiful they
were as they did it. I have long since forgotten the
name of the village where I saw them, but as I watched
these girls dancing there I thought to myself that truly
it should be named after them, and so it is that we of
the crew of the Wisdom who were there that day always
speak of it as ''The Village of the Three Little Maids."
But the ordeal for the little maids was not over.
They had to go through the marriage ceremony, and
they were so afraid that I thought for a little that they
would surely run away. Finally, however, after being
bullied and coaxed by the chief and others of the village
elders, two of them took seats on one side of a mat, and
the third, the bride, who was called "Boeah," or "Hap-
piness," sat down at the head of it. Then came three
youths, dressed in spotless garments. The groom,
known as "The Fighter," seated himself by the side of
his bride, and the best man and second groomsman
took places facing the bride's attendants.
The two parties scarcely dared look at each other;
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 143
but the boys who had come from a village fifteen miles
away — for the girls were of high rank and it was neces-
sary to have men of equal position to play opposite
them — on being taunted by the young men of our
village, began to grin sheepishly at the little maids.
Then came the mother of Happiness, and placed a bowl
of rice before her daughter and her future son-in-law.
It is part of the Karo-Batak marriage that the bride
and bridegroom must first exchange intimate parts of
clothing, but this they were supposed to have already
done, so now Happiness and The Fighter dipped their
hands in the rice bowl together and ate of the rice.
Then came a hitch in the performance. Happiness
apparently refused to go on, and all the crowd began to
laugh. The indignant chief stepped forward and began
to scold her again, and finally she yielded. It was now
supposed to be night time. The three young men,
and the mother, and the second bridesmaid went aw r ay,
leaving Happiness and her maid of honor together.
They lay down on the bridal mat and closed their eyes
as if asleep. Meanwhile The Fighter had come back
and was standing on tiptoe not far off. The maid of
honor glanced up, saw him, and very quickly got up
and crept away, while he just as stealthily took her
place by the side of his " sleeping ' ' bride. So ended the
Did I say the Three Little Maids were camera-shy?
After this we couldn't keep them from in front of the
camera. The performance they had been so afraid of
was over, and now they were like care-free schoolgirls
144 The Sea Gypsy
at a dance. And their very happiness spoiled their
beauty in our eyes, because now they began to smile,
and smiling, instead of rows of little white teeth, they
showed toothless gums.
It seems that all Karo-Batak girls and boys, when
they become of marriageable age go through the agony
of having their front teeth filed away. We asked to see
how this was done, and the chief agreed. A pleasant
and intelligent appearing old Batak, the Garou of the
village, sat down and called a boy out of the crowd.
Grinning, the lad came forward and laid his head on the
old man's knee. Two assistant Garous brought the
necessary instruments — a hammer and a number of
small iron chisels and files — and a bowl of water filled
with magic flowers. Before each instrument was used
it was dipped into the bowl, so that the magic flowers
might guide it to do its work well. Of course we had
expected the Garou to show only how he handled his
instruments, but instead he placed a chisel against one
of the lad's upper front teeth, gave it a sharp blow with
his hammer ; and the boy sat up and spat out a hunk of
tooth. Then the Garou went ahead and chipped away
at his victim's teeth in a lively fashion. Not once did
the boy wince or cry out, and Mulder informed us that
all Karo-Bataks, both boys and girls, consider them-
selves disgraced if they showed any emotion during
this operation, which, from what experience I have had
with dentists, must be an extraordinarily painful one.
When the Three Little Maids saw that we were taking
a picture of this gentle scene, they skipped around in
The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 145
front of the camera and sat down as close to the boy as
they could ; and there they stayed until we called a halt
to the operation, for it was growing late, and it was
time to go.
After I had told goodbye to the chief and the rest of
the villagers outside of the gate, where they had accom-
panied us, I looked back and thought what a splendid
picture the village made, with the mountain towering
over it as I looked at it first through a frame made by
some big palm leaves which grew at one side of the gate.
I asked our camera man to take a photograph of it
with his largest camera. As soon as he began to set it
up the three girls spotted him, and back they ran un-
asked and stopped in the center of the village square,
right in front of the lens.
THE BEAST MEN
IF some day you feel that life has grown dull and that
there is no more adventure left in the world, why,
take a small sailing vessel and steer for the waters north
of Australia. Then you will come to where for twenty-
four hundred miles a line of islands stretch in a thin
crescent. Here is the graveyard of ships without
number, and here too the graveyard of the bodies of
men and of their souls and minds and reputations.
Under the waters about the islands are deadly jagged
coral reefs ; and on the islands are the fiercest and most
primitive of savages; while the air abounds with fever
and pestilence. Death is thus under the sea, on land,
and in the air.
At the eastern stretch of this crescent is the biggest
island in the world — New Guinea, the savage Papua,
the interior of which is one of the world's unsolved
mysteries ; then as you sail further westward you come
to the Solomons, where the head of man, woman, or
child is still considered the greatest of human prizes,
and the bodies of men break out in festering sores, and
The Beast Men 147
fevers burn out all moral and physical stamina; and
sailing still further to the west you arrive at the New
Hebrides, where life approaches nearest to the brute
and the value of woman is literally less than that of a
pig. These lands are nominally under the control of
European governments, but the white man's law
touches only the coast fringe of life in Melanesia and
Papua. The interiors are as they have been since the
beginning of history — the jungle home of cannibals and
I spent the best part of six months sailing through
these waters in the Wisdom.
When the Wisdom sailed into the harbor of Vila, the
tiny capital of the New Hebrides, a little group of gal-
vanized roofed bungalows and trading shacks on the
edge of the jungle, the hundred whites who live there
were enjoying a rather grim and ironical joke at the
expense of the French and English governors who rule
jointly over this savage land, which recognizes author-
ity only at the point of a gun.
The joke was this: Some white man, a trader, as I
recall it, had ventured to land on the coast of Malekula,
the largest island of the New Hebrides. Now, Malekula
carries the title of "The Island of Fiends," and the
natives, living up to their usual reputation, had clubbed
and eaten the white man, and adorned a chief's hut
with his skull. A party of marines had landed to punish
the murderers. As the killing had been done by the
148 The Sea Gypsy
bushmen of the interior, the officer commanding the
marines went to a coast village to get as allies a hundred
of the "saltwatermen" as the natives along the shore
are called — for the saltwatermen are mortal enemies
of the bushmen. To accustom the marine recruits to
native tactics he then determined to make a sham
attack on the saltwatermen' s village. But the natives
understood nothing of sham battles, and when the
marines attacked in play they fought back in earnest.
The village was almost destroyed in the sham "sham
battle." Finally the leaders managed to separate the
combatants, and the next day the punitive expedition
marched into the jungle-fended mountains. There it
was properly ambushed and driven back to the coast
leaving four dead behind. A second expedition did not
attempt to land, but contented itself with lying off the
island in a little gunboat and shelling the silent hills.
"Which," said the Englishman who recounted the
story to me, "I am sure gave the beggars up there quite
a fine spectacle, besides probably ploughing up some
ground for yam patches."
This event is typical of Malekula. It rests today as it
did a thousand years ago, outside of the "utmost purple
rim" of civilization. The missionaries and traders who
have attempted to live there, have all disappeared;
some have died of fever, but the majority have been
killed and eaten by the cannibal natives.
However, on the small island of Atchin off the coast
of Malekula a foothold has been maintained by one
bold Seventh Day Adventist missionary, named Stewart
The Beast Men 149
and his wife. They are protected by a little stretch of
sea from the bushmen killers, who, though islanders,
know neither how to swim, fish, nor handle canoes.
Hiring as pilot a swarthy Frenchman named Francois,
who usually wore a wide engaging grin, despite the fact
that he just as frequently shook with malaria, we
sailed for At chin.
A white shack sparsely furnished, the eternal gal-
vanized iron roof, a few half-clad blacks as servants, and
behind their house the little wild island, and across the
bay the great grey and black shape of fierce Malekula —
there was something immensely pitiful about it — this
home of the Stewarts whom we visited there. For these
people, the middle-aged greying man bent with fever
and the woman with the tired eyes, were sincere ; there
was no question of a doubt of that; and though they
had given many years of their lives in this spot at the
outer end of the earth for their religion they had not
made a single real convert. The worship of demons
was just as firm in the wild people who surrounded
them as ever. Even as we came the islanders were
preparing for a great demon religious festival.
This event is known as the "yam festival," for the
natives believe they must make a sacrifice of blood to
the " devil-devil" who gives them the crop of yams;
which is their chief article of food. The festival lasts
for thirty days. During this time there is a truce
between the neighboring warring tribes, and they visit
each other to dance and gorge at the different sacred
places of sacrifice of the "devil-devil" . . . The
150 The Sea Gypsy
"Sing-Sing grounds," (as they are called in beche-de-
mer) on Atchin Island was located almost in sight of
Stewart's house; and it was a bitter thing for these two
missionaries to have to listen through the long night
to the hideous screaming of the dancers as they wor-
shipped the demon of fear.
All day long before the festival the visitors from the
shore of Malekula began to come in small canoes. We
watched them from the porch of Stewart's bungalow.
They were a hideous squat crowd of little blacks, naked
except for a small leaf ; and thrust through the lobes of
their ears were old tin cans, nails, and pig tails. Many
had flowers and combs stuck in their hair, or elephant
ear leaves bound to the sides of their heads. The
women, naked but for a few beads or wisps of straw,
came slinking ashore behind the stalking warriors.
They were all painted, some with scrolls designed across
their black faces, some with faces painted solid red.
All the men carried old muskets or heavy clubs, some-
When the shadows of evening darkened we left the
boat and went to the place of sacrifice. It made a
grewsome sight. It was completely surrounded by the
dark jungle; and at one end of it stood what looked
like a line of grewsome forest ogres. These were tree
trunks hollowed out through narrow slits in the front,
and painted to represent the faces and bodies of devils —
leering faces and gross twisted bodies which seemed to
writhe in horrible grimaces as the light of half a dozen
fires played upon them. By each demon tree drum
The Beast Men 151
stood a native with a club ready to pound on his " devil-
devil he sing out," as the drums were called. Two
other lines of hobgoblin devils, but these not made into
drums, stretched in a long lane on either side almost to
the edge of the forest. Facing these, and with a back-
ground of scowling savages, was a row of great blocks
of stone, at the head of each of which was raised a slab
like a tombstone. These were the sacred sacrifice
blocks where many a human being had once been killed.
The drums had already begun to boom when we
arrived, and no one paid us the slightest notice. The
squatting women in the background never moved so
much as an eyelash, it seemed; the lines of warriors
faced silently toward the jungle. Then from the depths
of the forest sounded a hurricane of howls and screams ;
and with that out of the blackness there poured a mass
of savages, grotesque and hideous beyond belief . They
ran down the lane between the grinning hobgoblins,
and began to dance in uncouth abandon before the
stones of the sacrifice of blood. Higher and higher
rang their shouts, higher than the deep boom of the
drums, drowning out the wails of the women. This
was not the dance of men; this was something bestial.
Suddenly the dancers rushed to one of the line of
devil statues. By each was standing a man clutching a
pig or wild forest tusker, squealing and fighting. The
dancers, gesturing wildly, grasped the animals, some by
one foreleg, some by the neck, some by the hind legs.
Then once more around and around they danced,
striking each other over the heads and shoulders with
152 The Sea Gypsy
the screeching pigs. After a time, without plan or
order, but each man as he reached the height of his
frenzy, the dancers flung themselves before the blood
altars. As if by magic other hideous little figures had
stolen behind these altars, and now we could see they
were flourishing knives. As the pigs were flung down
upon the altars they plunged the knives again and
again into the helpless animals, finishing each with a
death blow in the throat.
This was kept up until perhaps two hundred pigs
were heaped before the altars. When the last pig lay
dead, the dancers stopped and threw themselves on the
ground before the fires. Cooking pits had been dug;
and into these the animals were thrown, covered with
leaves and yams, and soon the savages were gorging
themselves like wild beasts.
We went away, but out on the Wisdom until morning
we could still hear the booming of the drums and the
shrill howls of the dancers.
One evening, a day or two after the yam festival, I
was sitting with the Stewarts on their porch, looking
out past the Wisdom toward the grim and threatening
mountain skyline of Malekula across the bay, when a
native girl of ten or eleven passed by. Stewart called
her. As she came limping toward us he said: "I have
been telling you of the apparent hopelessness of con-
verting these people to Christianity, but there is some-
thing that I saw and heard on this very spot a few weeks
The Beast Men 153
ago that convinces me that in the end we shall not fail.
But in order that you may understand the full signifi-
cance of my story, and in order that you may realize
that it was a real modern miracle I must give an explan-
ation of one sentiment in the native life. This little
girl is my first real explanation."
He laid his hand on the shoulder of the child, who
now stood beside him, and spoke a few words. She
turned her back to us, and Stewart lifted a bandage
which was bound about her knee, and 1 saw that on the
under side of the knee joint was a terrible half healed
burn. The flesh had been burned to the bone, and it
was evident that the little girl would never do more
than hobble about again.
"That was done by the girl's husband," said Stewart.
"This is her story: When she was three, her father
accepted a pig as the first payment ; a few months ago
her husband paid a few more pigs and took her to his
compound. That was a heavy price, but paid down
because the child was strong. Sows, you know, are
more valuable than women on Malekula, for pigs can
breed seven or eight young ones, while a woman only
"Now this child's husband only had a few wives to
do his work, so the slavery of his women was even
harder than usual, and as this child was young and
could not yet do full woman's work the man beat her.
She ran away to her mother. The husband came after
her, took her back to his compound, and beat her again.
Again she ran away. This time, when the husband
154 The Sea Gypsy
caught her, following the custom of his people, he took
a red-hot stone as big as a small coconut, placed it in
the joint behind her knee, and bound the ankle to the
thigh so as to hold the stone firmly in place. As a
result, the child is crippled for life. I happened to
hear of it, and four pigs bought the bride from her mate.
"Now that is one example of the place of women
among the people of Malekula. Another custom,
among some tribes, is to kill the wives when the hus-
"I have told you of these things so that you may
understand how little the savages regard the life of any
woman. If they think thus about their own women,
how much worse is their attitude toward a white
woman — for they have never failed to kill all whites
when they have had the chance.
"And now to my miracle. As you have heard, there
is not a single white person on the whole island. That
is true now. But a few months ago it was not. There
were two white people there. They were a young mis-
sionary and his wife, who had just come out to the New
Hebrides. I had heard, about a year ago, that they had
landed on the other end of Malekula, but to us, located
as we are, that is an impossibly long journey, and we
never saw them.
"About a month ago, while I was working at some
papers inside, my wife called to me that something
was wrong with a canoe in the bay. I went out, and
saw that a quarter of a mile away a canoe was going
from side to side, as if paddled by a crazy man, yet it
The Beast Men 155
was making some headway toward us. It drew nearer,
and I saw something which I could hardly believe.
There in that canoe, with her hair streaming in the
wind, was a white woman. Just try to imagine your
surprise, when, if you walked into your library in the
United States some evening, you were to see a naked
cannibal with a war club sitting in your best easy chair,
imagine this, and you will get a comparative idea of our
surprise when we saw the person in that canoe. It just
couldn't be a white woman; but it was.
"My wife and I rushed to the shore, and the mission-
ary girl, who should have been on her station a hundred
miles away, crawled out, and fainted dead away.
"That night she told her story. It is a story which
has strengthened my faith in our work forever.
"'The natives had been even more threatening than
usual,' said the girl, 'and my husband was very much
worried, when one day he fell sick with fever. He grew
worse and worse, and kept talking to himself over what
would happen to me in that terrible spot if he should
die. Then one night, as I sat beside him — he had grown
very sick by then and half the time was out of his head
and talking of the days when we were lovers in Aus-
tralia — he suddenly became very calm. 'Mary,' he
said, 'I'm through. I will die soon; but do not worry.
The Lord has told me he will protect you.' That was
all. In the morning, he died.
"'I did not know what to do. What could I do?
I could not even bury him. I was too weak. But when
I left his bedside and went out on the porch I saw a
The Sea Gypsy
ship and men rowing ashore from it. I ran down to the
shore to meet them. Oh, they were horrible-looking
men; you know the kind they call black-birders, who
buy the natives from their chiefs for work on the plan-
tations, or steal them if they can. There was not a
real white man among them ; even the Captain and the
mate were half-castes. But they buried my husband,
and took me to the ship. I asked them to carry me to
Vila, but they only laughed — the Captain had a horrible
laugh — and they said the wind was bad and they must
sail around the other side of the island. They did it,
they did it, and they laughed at me some more when I
'"And then the Captain was terrible, and when he
said awful things to me and I would not speak to him,
he took me in a boat and put me ashore way over there
on the other side of Malekula. I thought that now I
must surely be killed or maybe worse, but then, as I
sat there on the shore and watched that boat go away,
I remembered my husband's last words, and suddenly
I felt comforted and I started to walk across the
Stewart stopped his story here and turned to me.
"Can you imagine it?" he asked. "Can you? Here
was a young white woman, absolutely alone, in what is
perhaps the fiercest and most cruel place in the world.
And she was starting to walk the sixty miles across
Malekula, the interior of which had never been explored
by even the boldest of white men, and believe me,
some brave and able men have died trying, and men
The Beast Men 157
just as brave, but perhaps a little more sensible, have
shirked the adventure. Anyone could have said posi-
tively that there wasn't one chance in a thousand of
this girl getting over to the other side; no, not one in
ten thousand. It was just plain impossible. But —
well, this is what she told my wife and me, as she sat
just where you are sitting now:
"'I had] just started walking,' she said, 'when some
hideous little black men with guns in their hands,
stepped out of the bushes. One of them took me by the
arm, and, saying nothing, led me to a native village.
He put me in a horrible dark little pen of a house all
crowded with women and pigs. I did not sleep all
night, but I kept repeating to myself that my husband
had spoken with God, and that he had said that God
had promised to protect me. And nobody bothered
me all that night; and in the morning the man came
with two others, and they took me up a trail high into
the mountains to another village. There they talked
to another savage, and he put me in another compound
and the night passed just as before; and again in the
morning I was taken to still another village. This
happened five times, until today when the men from
the last village brought me out on the shore over there,
and pointed towards this island. And so I came."'
Stewart stopped his story here. "Now," said he,
"that was a real miracle. Anybody in the New Heb-
rides will tell you so. There is no other explanation
of why that girl wasn't killed and eaten, or violated,
and made a slave of. I can't possibly figure it out unless
158 The Sea Gypsy
she had aid from God. That is the proof I have re-
ceived that the Lord means us to keep on working here,
and that we will succeed."
I made inquiries when I stopped at Vila again, and
everybody confirmed Stewart's story of the woman.
There were plenty of religious skeptics, but about this
instance most of them were willing to give credit to
some supernatural power.
On the western side of Malekula there is a spot where
the natives will come down to answer a trader's signal
gun. It is in the country of the Big Nambus, as the
probably fiercest and certainly ugliest of all human
beings are called. This landing place is a truce ground,
and here the savages of the different tribes from this
part of the island, who at other times would cheerfully
kill and perhaps eat each other on sight, meet fairly
amicably. And it was to this trading place that the
Wisdom sailed from Atchin Island.
We fired no signal gun, but went quietly ashore to
investigate. While a covering boat stood by, one party
went up the shore, while Taylor, perhaps somewhat
too boldly, wandered up a path which wound out of
sight amidst the heavy forest -like undergrowth. As
he turned a fork in the trail he came face to face with
two women, naked and carrying heavy sacks. Taylor
was startled, but the women jumped into the bushes
like frightened rabbits and disappeared. Then a man
The Beast Men 159
came round the turn. He was not like any other kind
of man that Taylor had ever seen. He was more like
a beast than a man. His face was circled by a mat
of black hair so heavy that it was impossible to tell
where the hair of the head ended and whiskers and
beard began. From this matting of hair protruded a
huge pair of lips, surmounted by a nose through which
was thrust lengthwise a piece of bamboo. Almost
touching the bamboo a little pair of bloodshot eyes
glowered out from a low forehead wrinkled like that of
a monkey. The body was hairy and something like
that of a young gorilla.
In his hand the beast-man carried an old matchlock
gun. He and Taylor stared at each other in mutual
amazement for a fraction of a second, and then the
grotesque savage flung up his rifle and aimed at the
American. It looked like the finish. But the white
man took his one chance for life. He grinned; then, as
if it was the most natural thing in the world, slowly
took his cigarette case out of his pocket and offered a
smoke to the beast-man. The savage looked at him a
long minute, then lowered his gun and took the prof-
Peering from the bushes, and seeing their lord and
master apparently at peace with the strange white
being the women came creeping out. Taylor lifted his
camera as if to photograph them, but the Big Nambus
tribesman once more prepared for hostilities, so he de-
sisted. However, after Taylor had let the savage look
into the ground glass of his graflex, the fellow permitted
160 The Sea Gypsy
him to snap his picture. So the American and the
Beast-Man of the New Hebrides parted amicably.
The news apparently went swiftly about ashore that
some kind of a trading vessel was in the cove, for the
next morning a number of the Big Nambus tribesmen-
brothers in hideousness of the man Taylor had en-
countered — were to be seen on the beach from where
we watched from the deck of the Wisdom. We decided
to go ashore to see them, and when I landed there
stepped forward the fiercest appearing old savage that
1 have ever seen. He spoke beche-de-mer, and readily
entered into a conversation with me. I found that he
was Chief Nggompat, the ruler of the most important
tribe of the Big Nambus people. We gave him and his
Minister of War, who always stood rifle in hand at
the Chief's shoulder, a few gifts of beads and tobacco,
and so finally persuaded them and several of their
followers to come aboard. They seemed to be terrified
during the trip out across the water, but, once they
were aboard the Wisdom , had a great time investigating
Everybody aboard crowded around to see the reputed
cannibals, that is, everybody but Sam and Joe, the
negro cook and mess boy I had aboard at that time,
who were afterwards replaced by Chinamen and then
by Cingalese. "Man, I never see any nigger that
looked like this here black man. I don't believe he's
any man at all," said Sam, as he led a retreat toward
the galley. "Old Sam he stay down below." And he
did. So did his comrade of color, Joe.
The Beast Men 163
McNeil, Taylor, Andy, and Big Johnny decided to
risk a return visit to Nggompat, and accompanied him
ashore. He led them for two hours up the mountains
until they came out of the jungle onto a sort of clearing
on a small plateau. In the center of yam gardens were
bamboo houses, twenty feet in width and thirty-five
to forty feet long. The front of each house was like a
wide Gothic window and tapering to a narrow width
at the back. The thatching was at least a foot thick.
The roofs sloped steeply down almost to the ground,
and the entrance to the bamboo front was like the door
to a dog house; it was only about two feet high. The
house had no windows. It was so dark inside that the
visitors from the Wisdom could make out little but
that there were mats on the ground and that yams and
nuts were hanging about.
Chief Nggompat took the white men over to the
compound of his son, Bwilbwilli, but refused to enter,
for it is an unbreakable law, punished by death, among
the Big Nambus that no man shall enter the compound
of another. The Chief's son, a boy of seventeen, proud-
ly pointed to his eleven wives, squatting in a row in the
women's compound. Some of them seemed old enough
to be his mother, and it appeared that the father, in
setting his boy up in life, had given him a few of his
own old broken-down wives to make up his lad's retinue
of eleven. These women were as dirty as the pigs
which rooted about them.
In Bwilbwilli 's yard Taylor saw an object on a high
pole which resembled a fresh human skull. The Chief's
1 64 The Sea Gypsy
son, noticing Taylor's interest said, "Finish ki ki (eat)
man. No ki ki long time — " Perhaps this was true,
but when the saying was repeated to Black Sam aboard,
he sniffed. "Dat's one big lie," he said. "Don't you
think Sam knows cannibals when he sees 'em? Yassuh,
Cap 'en. Dem black boys would eat you up quick as a
It may be that Sam was right.
HEAD-HUNTING THROUGH THE MAGIC EYE
\V7E wanted to see head-hunters. Head-hunting
was what the Solomon Islands were noted for,
and that was the first thing about which I questioned
the young Irish Captain, V.C., who was their governor,
when the Wisdom, after a six-hundred-mile cruise,
sailed into Tulagi, the tiny capital of the islands. The
governor smiled rather grimly and said: " There are
plenty of head-hunters here. Taking heads is still the
national pastime ; but I hope that the big head-hunting
raids these lads used to pull off are fairly well broken
up." And he proceeded to tell of the rounding up and
smashing of the raiding canoes which the British gov-
ernment had systematically carried on during the past
twenty years. On the island of Malatia, forty miles
away, he said there were men called "professional
killers," who would treacherously club their own
mothers to death for a string of beads, and he added
that though the British government had, temporarily
given up the job of trying to collect taxes or to stop
1 66 The Sea Gypsy
tribal fights there, it did "do a bit to put down the pro-
fessional killer chaps." In fact, on the gallows down
below the government house the governor had seven
hanged the next morning. It was a fairly convincing
proof of his words.
But up until fifteen years ago it was the custom for
the strong tribes to set to sea in their great war canoes
and raid other islands for heads, going sometimes as
far as two hundred miles across the stormy and treach-
erous seas. Though we of the Wisdom never saw such
a raid we had a chance to reproduce one exactly for
our motion pictures. It happened this way: The
governor had wrecked his own yacht on a coral reef —
the uncharted waters of the Solomons are the dread of
mariners — and so at my invitation he went on his in-
spection trip through the islands on mine. At Gizo,
a trading post, during this trip, I met Nicholson, an
Australian Methodist missionary, and, as the governor
was along to give permission, Nicholson agreed to
have the natives on his island of Vella Lavella mimic
one of the raids which but a short time before
had made Vella Lavella the terror of the Solomons.
I took the governor back to Tulagi and then went to
We anchored off Nicholson's mission, a beautiful
spot — a little church by the side of a native village,
sitting a hundred feet above the sea on a small plateau.
Taylor and I landed on a wide beach, fringed with
palm trees, and there the missionary met us. As we
walked through a coconut grove and mounted rude
wooden stairs to the plateau he told me of how he had
first come there, thirteen years before.
He and his wife had arrived in Tulagi from Australia.
Young and eager, they volunteered to go to Vella
Lavella, where never white folk had dwelt before.
Their offer was accepted, though it was thought they
had chosen the death of martyrs.
The small boat from the trading schooner landed
them with their few bundles of baggage on the beach
and then raced back to the ship. They looked about.
Above, on the plateau, they could see the thatched
roofs of a village, but neither man, woman, nor child.
Silence, but for the surf breaking on the coral reefs, and
the forest cries of birds. It was the kind of silence that
is more to be feared on the islands than the fierce shouts
of the spear-rush— a man-made silence.
The young Australian looked out toward the ship and
swung up his arm, to show that all was well. He and
the woman silently watched the vessel sail away, then
turned and hand in hand walked up the rough path to
the village. Soon, as if by signal, appeared out of the
jungle the people whom they had come to teach the
ways of the white man's God : naked black men, spear
and stone club in hand; women with babies on their
bare hips or swung from bark-cloth slings thrown over
one shoulder; children huddling in the rear. The white
girl crept close to her husband, not daring to look at
these fierce head-hunters and cannibals. A little native
boy walked boldly up to the white man, who smiled
down at him and patted him on the head. Then a
1 68 The Sea Gypsy
squat black man, decorated with many ornaments,
made a sign — and the menacing circle melted away.
The young missionary's cool courage had won. The
boy was the favorite son of a great chief, and "the
black with all the filigree-work was the chief himself,"
finished Nicholson as we came to the door of his bunga-
I looked about wonderingly; for here was the spot
where that scene had taken place only a few years
before. But now there was this neat bungalow, through
the open door of which I could see European furniture,
and near by stood a little wooden church, and stretch-
ing away from it long rows of neatly kept thatched
houses. The plateau itself was cleared, except for a
splendid coconut grove.
"Not bad," said Nicholson, as he saw my glance.
"And all due to the chief. He made me taboo. With-
out his protection our heads would have been among
the chief ornaments in the skull-house any time in the
past dozen years."
But it was only the hundred-odd natives here who
had become Christianized. Not half a mile away was a
village where most of the tribe lived as had their
forefathers. And the coast of all the island was dotted
with like villages.
In the cool of the afternoon on the sand outside
Nicholson's house I had my first meeting with Gau, the
savage who was to play the leading part in the head
hunt. He was to represent a Napoleon of the Solomons,
who, by uniting tribes for the head-hunt, had made
A Solomon Island Warrior
himself a sort of savage Emperor. As Gau squatted
on the ground across from me I regarded with curiosity
this man who a little while ago had been one of the
fiercest of the head-hunters.
He was a man of fifty, I should say, about five feet,
five inches tall, strongly built and well-muscled, but
fat. He was naked, except for a loin-cloth made of
tapa-bark. His nose was full-nostriled, and his short
bushy hair curly and still black. His face was puffy
and stolid. Only his deep-set eyes showed his remark-
able intelligence. About his neck were three necklaces
of shell money, and attached to cords made of native
vine, a beautiful tortoise-shell circular pendant, two
inches in diameter, on which were hung three rows of
human teeth. Around each arm above the elbow were
ten shell armlets. Fastened just above his right eye
was his sign of chieftainship, a really magnificent thing.
It was a flat piece of shell, four inches in diameter, as
exactly rounded as if machine-made, and beautifully
inlaid with tortoise-shell in curious and delicate
At the beginning of our talk, I presented him with a
knife and a hatchet, which he accepted gravely. Gift-
making is customary in the Solomons, but a man rarely
ever accepts without making a return present. I
received yams, chickens, and bananas aboard ship from
Gau the next day. He understood well enough my wish
to see a head-hunt, but I could not make him compre-
hend what motion-pictures are. There was no combina-
tion of words in the comparatively few guttural sounds
172 The Sea Gypsy
of his language which could convey the meaning. I
finally resorted to superstition. I told him I had a Magic
Eye, which could always see again anything it had ever
beheld, and that what my Magic Eye saw, my followers
who looked into it when I returned home, could see
also. Then I said my warriors had heard of the fighting
ability of his men, and I wished my Magic Eye to see
for them, that they might learn.
While awaiting the final preparations I had time to
learn something of the customs and lives of the natives ;
for I realized that, if my pictures were to be life size
and exact, I must study the people themselves before
the head-hunt was photographed. Like all Solomon
Islanders, they are deeply religious, or superstitious.
There are hundreds of taboos, which no native dare
disobey, for fear of the "devil-devils," to employ the
same beche-de-mer term as was employed in the New
Hebrides. There are multitudes of these dread powers
which punish cruelly the breaking of these laws.
An understanding of the deeply superstitious nature
of the natives enabled me to comprehend the reasons
for their head-hunting. Wolves pull down a moose for
food; white men shoot game for like cause, or for love
of the chase; but the Solomon Islanders hunt human
heads for a spiritual reason. It has to do with mana,
a mysterious spirit of power, which dwells in both men
and things in a thousand different forms. By virtue
of this power, and not by his own intelligence or
strength, a man becomes a great chief or famous warrior.
If he is killed, it is because his enemy's mana is greater
than his own. If a canoe has its bottom torn out on a
reef, it is because it has no wonderful mana to protect
it. If it carries its warriors safely, it is because its
mana is great. A certain stone or reef may have a
mana that will keep an entire tribe healthy or make
a coconut grove fruitful. All success, all happiness,
is due to mana.
Solomon Islanders believe that the more heads a
man takes the greater his mana. For a powerful chief
it is imperative that his canoe-house be adorned with
hundreds of skulls. Then the mana which belonged to
his victims becomes the property of himself and his
people. And when the bodies of dead warriors are
eaten, their mana becomes even more directly a pos-
session of the feasters. Moreover, there are certain
ceremonies that require human sacrifice. A war-canoe
is thought to be without mana unless it is sprinkled
with human blood and the skull of the sacrifice is kept
in the canoe-house. Or if a great sickness falls on a
tribe, there must be human sacrifice to appease the
Outside of this mysterious spirit worship life in the
wild villages of the Solomons is simply a matter of
existence. To get food, eat it, sleep, and have children
— that is life. In this primitive life the women are the
property of men and do all the hard labor. A girl is
bought and sold without regard to her personal prefer-
ence. She goes to the highest bidder.
174 The Sea Gypsy
I took a picture representing such a marriage. At
the beginning it was impossible to make the natives
carry through their parts. First, I was forced to play
each r61e myself — be the bride, groom, dissatisfied
suitor, and father. I found, too, great difficulty in
obtaining my stars. Most of the pretty girls were
stupid or afraid. But at last I found one young girl
who responded readily to instruction. She was viva-
cious, and after her fashion charming, a savage Mary
Pickford. We staged the scene, as in life, outside her
father's house. One suitor brought his gifts of shell
money and ornaments, but the second threw in a pig,
and the father, not able to resist this temptation,
touched the second young man's offering, a sign that
he had accepted the bargain. The bridegroom gripped
his girl by the wrist and led her off unresisting.
He was happy — or would have been, had the scene
been real — if she was not, for wives mean wealth.
They can make ornaments and shell money (and it is
interesting that these savage people use money), and
cultivate land. When a wife has done enough work,
then with the products of her labor a man is able to
buy a second wife. When he has two wives, he can
more quickly purchase a third, and so on. When a
Vella Lavella man dies, his wives are killed also, for
they are considered responsible for their husband's
health, and his death is therefore due to their neglect.
Nicholson told me he had done all in his power to
change this. At the mission are a number of women
who fled to safety there at the time of the death of their
husbands. In some villages the natives have submitted
in part to the missionary's demands, and now, instead
of killing widows, they only require the poor women to
disfigure themselves, and to give up all ornaments, and
also, they forbid them the privilege of washing.
Women are the cause of trouble on Vella Lavella, as
in our civilization. Petty wars between tribes are
brought about by the stealing of women. Also, women
provide an incentive to the young men to work. A
poor man will hire himself out to work on a plantation
on some other island for three years in order to obtain
enough wealth to buy a wife. When he returns, how-
ever, his ditty-box is usually emptied of its contents by
his relatives or tribesmen, each one taking a present,
and he is almost as poor as when he started. Strangely
enough, he does not resent this.
The natives of Vella Lavella are good sportsmen.
As fishermen they are wonderful, but they find little to
hunt. The only dangerous animal is the alligator, but
it is never molested by the natives, either because they
have no weapons with which to kill it or because it is
taboo. Because of the fear of alligators, villages are
never built directly on streams.
The woods are full of bird-life. I made a trip across
the island to visit a young chief, Osopo. As we trudged
along the jungle trails, I could hear on every side the
screeching of cockatoo and parrakeet. Osopo would
occasionally dart off to shoot pigeons and doves with
his small bow and arrows.
At Osopo 's village I had a chance to see the natives
176 The Sea Gypsy
in their primitive state. The small, thatch-roofed huts
had no windows, and the only openings for light and air
were doors about two and a half feet high and two feet
wide. The sole furnishings were grass mats. Every-
body was dirty. Vermin abounded. The natives lived
from day to day. There was no reserve supply of food,
except a few bundles of coconut in each hut. There
was only one meal a day, which seemed to be eaten at
any time, and at which all gorged themselves. For
this meal the women gathered taro, yams, and nuts,
and brought in shellfish at low tide. The men went on
pig hunts to get meat for their feasts.
I accompanied them on one of these hunts. They
stretched a net about a hundred feet long and three
feet high, made of tough vines, across a clearing. Then
some twenty men armed with spears slipped silently
into the woods. I took a station behind the net and
waited. Soon I heard loud shouting, and three pigs
with the hunters after them came bursting forth from
the underbrush. The pigs rushed straight into the net,
which, being only loosely laid, dropped down, en-
tangling them in it's meshes. The savages fell on them
gleefully, tied their legs and carried them back to the
village. There their squeals were hushed by handfuls
of banana leaves held tightly over their snouts until
they smothered to death. They were then cut open and
their entrails were pulled out. These were thrown into
the fire for a few moments, and then every man grabbed
some and began to eat gluttonously, but I made no
attempt to swallow the morsels that Osopo handed me.
In a trice the hair had been scraped off the pigs, and
they were placed on red-hot rocks in the center of the
fire. Long before they were roasted, they were torn
apart and eaten almost raw.
Meanwhile the preparations for the head-hunt were
being finished. From hidden places far back in the
jungle, war-canoes that had been saved from the
British punitive expedition were brought out. These
were magnificent pieces of workmanship, 35 to 50 feet
long, holding from 40 to 1 00 men, and though without
outriggers, seaworthy. They were made with three
planks on each side and two narrow planks forming a
flat bottom. All the boards had beveled edges and
were sewed together with cords made from stems of
vines. The seams were calked with a material some-
thing like rosin, obtained from a jungle tree. The sides
of the canoes were beautifully inlaid with pearl-shells
in fantastic designs. At both stem and stern were
twelve-foot beaks decorated with conch-shells. At the
bow, just below the line of shells and close to the water,
were heads carved of wood, which were supposed to
watch for hidden reefs. Nearly all the paddles had
rotted away, and new ones were made out of hard wood.
When I came ashore on the day set for the head-hunt,
hundreds of natives were already lying about in the
coconut grove and on the beach. They had come in
from the \illages, overland, with their women carrying
provisions for the stay, or by canoe, and were now
180 The Sea Gypsy
camped out in the open, their quarters during the week
I spent in photographing them. As I walked among
the men and they closed around me, staring curiously,
I thought I had never seen a hardier type of fighting
men. They were taller and blacker than most of the
Solomon Islanders I have seen and more frank and
fearless in expression, and they all had teeth stained
fiercely dark from betel-nut chewing. They were fully
armed for battle. Most of them had carved spears
eight feet long, made of hard palm-wood and decorated
with bands of colored hemp. I asked one, through
Nicholson, what kind of bones the spear-points were
made of. He reached down and touched his shin,
indicating that his was made from a man's shin bone.
In addition to spears, a number of the warriors carried
stone clubs, which are called tomahawks by the traders.
These clubs had three-foot straight handles, inlaid with
pearl-shells. All the men carried light shields about
two and a half feet long by ten inches wide, made of
reeds fastened together by native hemp. They had
streaked their faces and the upper part of their bodies
with a paint made of white lime, so that in the dark or
in the heat of attack they might easily recognize one
another. All were bareheaded, but a few wore curious
sunshades woven of fiber. Every man had on all the
ornaments he possessed; tortoise-shell belts, necklaces
and armlets. Each chief had his inlaid circular shell
disc fastened either directly between his eyes or over
one eye. The Solomon Islander always wears orna-
ments in war, because he is a firm believer in ghosts,
Head Hunters Only a Few Years A(
and thinks that his ghost will have the use of all his
most valued trinkets if they are kept with his skull. If
he is killed, these treasures are never stolen. The
natives believe that, if the dead man's ornaments are
taken away, his ghost will haunt the thief.
Nicholson was down with fever, nevertheless he
climbed from his sick bed to aid me, so I was able to
begin immediately. The natives entered into the
spirit of the game. But first I gave them small presents
and a feast of canned salmon and dog-biscuit, a meal
they vastly preferred to native food. And I promised
them further presents and feasts if all went well. Food
was my best card.
The chief difficulty was to prevent the savages from
staring into the camera. That " magic eye" fascinated
thern. But by saying that to look at it was taboo and
that its mysterious spirit would bring down terrible
punishment on whosoever stared into it, I was soon
able to induce them to go ahead as if the camera were
not there. As the picture progressed, things became
easier. The hunt ceased to be acting. I am sure that,
if the savages had not all been under Nicholson's
influence, my screen production would have ended in
an actual battle, with heavy casualties. The likeli-
hood of such an outcome became so apparent that,
before the fighting began, we had all the bone barbs
removed from the spears. What we proposed to do
was merely to feign a repetition of the last famous raid
on Choiseul Island.
We called the under-chiefs into conference, and, as
r84 The Sea Gypsy
they squatted in a circle on the sand talking earnestly,
the women prepared food for the voyage, which, if
actually made, would have been a hundred and fifty
Gau and his chiefs decided on a plan of attack. Then
Gau addressed his warriors. It was a wonderful scene,
but many feet of film were spoiled, because some mis-
sion men, dressed in shirts and breeches and unarmed,
were so stirred by the sight of their great chief making
a war-speech that they crept in among the savage
warriors to listen to him. I had to stop the cameras and
drive them away.
When Gau had finished, the young chiefs spoke,
working themselves into a frenzy, dancing up and down
and waving their spears. The warriors answered their
enthusiasm with savage cries and gesticulations.
Finally, at a word from Gau, all rushed down to the
canoes and in a second were making for an opening in
the reef. The women and children followed to the
water's edge, waving excited good-byes. The dozen
men who had been left behind as guards remained silent.
They stood on the beach and stared grimly and sadly
at the rapidly disappearing canoes. And the mission
men, not employed in the picture, downcast and miser-
able, huddled together — outcasts from the wonder and
glory of the hunt for heads.
The handling of the canoes was marvelous. The
men sat double-banked on thwarts, with the exception
of the chiefs, who stood. In the stern of each boat was
a steersman equipped with a big paddle, which he
handled with both hands and feet, and in the bow was
a stroke-maker, a warrior picked for strength and skill.
The men kept perfect time, the paddles rising and
falling rhythmically, in time with a wild chant which
they sang in a high, minor key. The stroke was about
fifty to the minute, but every fifteen minutes they
would change it, make a rapid short spurt and then
drop back into the regular time. Occasionally all the
canoes would stop. During the few minutes' rest
every man chewed betel-nut. And always I could see
Gau's squat, immovable figure as he stood in the stern
of the canoe in the lead.
Gau had chosen a village, miles up the coast, as a
place to be attacked. Around the houses were built
three stone walls, two feet thick and five feet high,
about fifty feet apart. From behind these walls the
village men could hurl their spears at the unprotected
enemy without great danger to themselves. A guard
was usually stationed at the outer wall, and an enemy
making a surprise attack would have to fight his way
over two walls before arriving at the main body of
defenders, who had had time, on account of these
obstructions, to get their weapons and make ready for
When the canoes neared the village, Gau directed
Kavi, one of the older chiefs, with a hundred men, to
separate from the main party and land on the far side
of the village. I went ahead in my launch and had the
camera men ready.
We came upon an idyllic scene. Women were cook-
1 86 The Sea Gypsy
ing around open fires in front of the huts or hunting
shellfish in the shallows of the blue lagoon; children
were playing about ; a few men were gathering coconuts,
climbing the trees with monkey-like agility. Then, of
a sudden, the war-canoes shot into sight from behind a
nearby curve in the coast. I could scarcely see the
paddles flash and dip — so rapid was the stroke. One
of the women who were fishing looked up and saw them.
She screamed loudly, and ran for the village. In a
second there was the wildest disorder. Women and
children scampered pell-mell for the woods, crying and
howling. The village men all vanished into the houses,
but appeared again on the instant, waving spears and
clubs. All had been informed that it was only play,
but the sight of those war-canoes filled with yelling
warriors was too much.
It was then that Kavi's warriors came pouring out
of the woods, cutting off escape, and Gau's men, with
the old chief at their head beached their canoes with a
rush and ran across the sand like mad. From behind
the outer wall the village men met them with a volley
of spears. Gau's warriors poured over the first wall,
thrusting with their spears and swinging their toma-
hawks at the outnumbered villagers, who retreated.
Then both sides lost their heads. They jabbed and
hammered at one another in deadly earnest, while Gau,
perched on top on the wall, jumped up and down,
waving spear and shield, cheering his men on. The
villagers made a determined stand before the last wall,
but were overwhelmed. Then Gau and I rushed in,
separating the struggling mob. When order was finally
brought about, many of the savages were bleeding from
wounds. It was the most realistic screenfight I have
Gau took back a number of captives with him. It had
always been the custom to take prisoners, if possible,
breaking their legs if they attempted to escape. Cap-
tives were considered necessary, so that human sacri-
fices might be ready whenever the spirits demanded.
The life of a prisoner in the Solomons was far different
from what it was in most other lands; he was allowed
to live freely with his captors, sometimes for years,
until the fatal day came when a head was necessary —
then he was killed without compunction.
I shall never forget the sight of the home-coming of
the head-hunters. As the canoes appeared in the far
distance, the women and children came down to the
shore, waving their arms in greeting. As the canoes
drew near land, the men began to paddle very slowly,
lifting the paddles high out of the water with each
stroke and singing a wild, mournful melody, as if for
their dead. Then, at the end, they broke into a paean
of triumph and dashed the canoes almost up to the
beach with terrific speed.
Gau had had a number of skulls of his former victims
brought down from his skull-house in the mountains,
and these, wrapped in coconut leaves, were brought
ashore by the warriors. As they stalked up the beach
between the lines of admiring women, skulls held high,
one would have thought from their proud appearance
1 88 The Sea Gypsy
that they had brought home real trophies of war. A
great fire was built on the beach by the women, and
into this the heads would have been cast, if they had
been newly taken spoils, and left there until the flesh
had been burned away. Around the fire the fighting
men danced, singing, while the women sat about and
watched, their bodies swaying to the music. Then the
skulls were placed in coconut-leaf baskets and thrust
on the top of four-foot poles set at regular intervals
along the beach. Around these once more the wild
And standing outside the circle, leaning on his spear,
watching, his face, expressionless, was Gau, dreaming,
perhaps, of the hundred times that all this had been
reality, or, it may be, of a time when it would become
THE SON OF A CANNIBAL KING
E7IJI is usually remembered throughout the world as
the home of a race of fierce cannibals of the South
Seas. And that was what was in the minds of most of
the ship's company of our little sea gypsy when one
morning we sighted the first of the two hundred islands
of the Fiji group.
We sailed all of one day past these beautiful islands,
and the next morning stood into Suva, the capital, on
the island of Viti Levu. A fifteen-thousand-ton
steamer and two smaller ships were alongside of stout
concrete docks on which worked gangs of Fijians — tall,
dark, strongly made, their masses of bushy black hair
impossible for any style of hat. Near them were
swarms of turbaned Hindus, imported from India for
labor. Ashore, automobiles rolled merrily along well-
paved streets, lined with concrete stores. At each
street corner were bareheaded, barefooted, khaki-clad
Fiji traffic policemen. On the slope of the hill back of
the town were numbers of fine residences, surrounded
by gardens and small parks. And we dined that night
190 The Sea Gypsy
at an ultra-modern hotel, the best in the South Seas,
among men and women in conventional evening clothes.
A Carnegie library on the main street completed the
We had come to wild, cannibal Fiji.
But we were soon to find that not all Fiji was the
same as Suva. Ten days after our landing we sat
watching a tall Fijian at the steering-wheel of the old
cabin launch in which we were riding. He held the
lower spokes of the wheel gripped firmly with his feet
and moved it dexterously as he stared over the launch-
house. We were going — Taylor, McNeil, one of the
camera-men and myself, with our host, Mr. Davis, a
Suva merchant of lifelong residence in the Fijis — to the
island of Mbau, the former stronghold of Thakombau,
most famous of the old cannibal kings, once master of
most of this part of the Fijis. As we came close to the
island, we could see on its lee side great slabs of stone,
placed upright, making a protecting wall. At fifty-
foot intervals, there were openings into which the war
canoes once were hauled after raids. As Davis stepped
out at one of these openings, he stretched his arms
lazily and said, "About time for a drink."
At that a huge, handsome, black Fijian, dressed in
knickerbockers and shirt, but barefooted, stepped for-
ward, and speaking in a cultured English drawl said,
"Really, you know, I think that would be an excellent
idea." It was Ratu Pope Epeli Senilola, grandson of
A few minutes later, as we sat in his house, a frame
Son of a Cannibal King 193
building of hand-hewn timbers set on a rectangular
stone base, with sides of woven reeds and a thatched
roof of coconut leaves, he told us the part he and his
people had played in the world war.
"We are a race of warriors," he said. "And so,
when England — to which my father's father ceded the
Fijis by signing a paper on that very table there — went
to war with her enemies, I raised a regiment of my
people. When we came to France, my warriors were
astounded to find that, instead of fighting, we were to
do servant duty. However, the Fijians are people
obedient to their chiefs, and when I, their King, played
the flunkey cheerfully, they could not complain.
"But though I acted as a servant there, I am not here,
as you will see," he said. He called out sharply. A
man entered, squatted on one of the mats covering the
coral-pebbled floor, several feet from the King, and
clapped his hands softly three times, the Fijian sign of
obeisance to a chief. With a curt nod, the young
Fijian monarch gave him permission to rise.
Though shorn by the English of much of his fore-
father's power, Pope held to his privileges or rank.
Also he played the part of father to his people. While
the influenza was sweeping the Fijis some time before,
he had gone fearlessly among them, personally attend-
ing the sick, until he himself was stricken. According
to Fijian law, he owned no land or personal property
but he had lala right over the services and possessions
of all his subjects.
While his villagers were at work preparing for
194 The Sea Gypsy
our entertainment, he showed us his immediate do-
main. In the middle of the village he pointed out the
remains of an old pagan temple, the foundations of
which are still intact. Against one of its corner-stones
only a comparatively few years ago, his grandfather,
before being converted to Christianity, had had knocked
out the brain of every male captive and of many a
female. It was one of the killing methods before cook-
ing for the feast. It also had the religious significance
of a sacrifice. The victim's hands and feet were
grasped by four stalwart executioners, who swung the
captive back with a long swing, then rammed him for-
ward with four-man power, the head smashing against
the execution rock.
Near this spot stands a small stone church, built by
the father of the present King in commemoration of
King Thakombau's conversion to Christianity. The
royal builder of the monument had a hollow scooped
out in the old beheading stone, which he placed in the
church as a receptacle for holy water. But the horri-
fied missionaries quickly removed it. The rock still
remains in one corner of the church, however.
In the afternoon, for our benefit, a canoe race was
held, in which we rode as passengers. Only in one
place on the New Guinea coast have I seen canoes
rigged like these of this part of Fiji. They were out-
rigger dugouts, whale-backed, some thirty feet long.
In the center of each canoe was a single mast, to which
was attached the upper end of a large sail of pandanus
matting. This sail was fastened on a reversible sprit.
Son of a Cannibal King 195
The boat was brought about by the simple expedient
of shifting the bottom end of the matting from one end
of the canoe to the other. At either end were sockets to
hold it in place. The canoes were steered by big nine-
To a sailor these canoes were one of the most inter-
esting objects imaginable. One small craft had a lone
man for crew. It was a wonder of trick seamanship to
see him bring his canoe about simply by grabbing the
big paddle and the lower end of the sail and rushing to
the other end of the boat. Sailing to the leeward, the
canoes skidded the outriggers so that they barely
touched water and were occasionally lifted high in
At nightfall a feast was to be served in our house.
Clean mats were first brought in. Then the King
entered and seated himself cross-legged, facing the
door. Thereafter no native entered without first fall-
ing on his or her hands and knees before the King and
Queen, as well as the rest of the guests. A girl of
twenty took a seat in the center of the mat. She was
the King's cousin. She acted as mistress of cere-
monies. Other girls, bringing in the dishes, handed
them all to her, and she served us. I had eaten at
three o'clock, and told the King that I was afraid I
should be unable to swallow a morsel. But he in-
sisted that I try the first course, a clear fish soup, served
in a polished half coconut-shell. I ate that, then two
more bowls, and then everything else that was served.
It was the most delicious meal I had in the South Seas.
196 The Sea Gypsy
Little black fish, which can be eaten by no one but the
King and his guests, were served in three forms,
roasted in leaves, boiled, and crisply grilled. Then fol-
lowed turtle meat, roasted chicken, yams, breadfruit
and taro leaves steamed in coconut-milk. There was
only one Europeanism — coffee was served in cups.
Dinner over, fifteen girls, their coarse hair brushed
astoundingly erect and made even blacker than natural,
if possible, by a preparation of soot, took their places
in a semicircle for a sitting meke, one of the native
dances. While they moved their bodies back and forth
and waved their arms in undulations of the dance, they
sang, keeping time to the music by tapping their feet
on the floor. One girl, almost a child, with a high
soprano voice, would chant the first few notes of each
verse. Then the others would join in, the movements
of their bodies illustrating the words of the song, which
usually was a tale of native life — of hunting, fishing,
war, love. The tunes were chanted in a high minor key,
but they bore a suspicious resemblance to certain fami-
liar missionary hymns.
As the girls sang, their songs grew more stirring, and
one by one old warriors of the young King's father
grouped themselves about the door. Suddenly in the
midst of a war-song, one of these old men, without a
word, threw up his hands and pitched across the
threshold — dead. His heart had given out under the
passion stirred by old remembrances. The King ac-
companied the body to the dead man's hut, comforted
the widow and children and then returned to tell us with
Son of a Cannibal King 197
great regret, that because of the four-day period of
mourning to follow, he would be unable to continue the
festivities in our honor.
The Fijians are controlled by a combination political
theory that to my western mind was almost pure com-
munism, paradoxically including government by a chief
with wide powers, who owes fealty to the King-Em-
peror. This is still the condition in Pope's village of
Mbau, as we found.
There is no private ownership of property. If a man
wishes anything from another, he asks for it and, ac-
cording to Fijian custom, his neighbor must give it up
— whether it be pig, sulu (the native single garment
that hangs from the waist) , or spear. It would appear
that, under this system, the most industrious beggar
must necessarily be the richest man, and that the only
reward for a hard worker is to be able to have more to
give away than his fellows. The first part of my as-
sumption is partially true — practically every Fijian is
an industrious beggar. But his begging is limited, for
no man looks further ahead then the immediate present.
If he has food for the day, he is content. I found, on
the other hand, that my fear that the man who labors
hard might be robbed of the fruits of his toil by his
fellow tribesman, was not warranted, for no man in
Fiji labors as an individual. All work is done in com-
mon, and the result of the work divided equally among
all. If a man's house has been burned, he reports to
198 The Sea Gypsy
his chief that he needs a new one, and the chief assigns
a certain number of men to build it. Thus, literally, no
man can be richer than his fellows, and for that reason
in the Fijis there is none of the jealousy of wealth that
exists in more sophisticated communities.
The tribal chief in these communistic governments
theoretically owns no personal property. But he is
considered to own the bodies of all members of his
tribe and all their possessions. Formerly he had the
power of life and death. Now, though the British have
done away with this, he still controls his people's
property and labor and is their judge and administra-
tor. The British make him directly responsible to
them, and when the British resident agent wishes men
or work, he simply gives an order to the native king
or chief of the district. I saw some three hundred of
Pope's men clearing a government road through the
brush and was surprised to find them working industri-
ously, without overseers. This was the more amazing
as 1 had had ample proof of the indolence of the average
Pope's villages were typical Fijian communistic com-
munities. The houses were built in regular order, all
almost exactly alike, rectangular-shaped and thatched
with straw. They were neatly kept and surrounded
by well-clipped grass lawns with no rubbish about.
The interiors were bare except for food, clean-looking
sleeping-mats and a few spears, cooking utensils and
fishing-nets. I looked about particularly to see if any
man appeared to have more than his neighbors. As
Son of a Cannibal King 199
far as I could see, Pope's boast that no man was richer
than another in Fiji was correct. In some of the houses
there may have been a few more fish or coconuts than
in others. But in thirty years' wandering in many
quarters of the globe I have never seen a more equitable
distribution of worldly goods.
On the day we returned from Mbau in our launch,
Pope overheard one of his under-chiefs telling another
of a large pearl he had found. Without ado, Pope de-
manded it of the man, who immediately handed it to
' ' Will he not be angry with you ? " I asked.
"Ah, no," replied Pope. "When we reach home, he
will come to me and ask a pig or two. And I must give
them to him."
"But suppose you refuse?"
"We never refuse. That is the custom of our people,
far more unbreakable than any written law you have in
the United States."
In Fiji, woman plays no part in government. She is
simply a worker for man. And, since a Fijian has only
one wife as a rule, her duties are arduous. The Fijian
woman catches fish, gathers firewood, makes tapa
cloth and mats, cooks and rears the children. She has
no leisure except in her girlhood. Her life is infinitely
harder than that of the Polynesian women of the
Society Islands, and in direct contrast with these girls
she is notably chaste. But not so chaste as in former
times. This is due in part to a change in custom
brought about by the missionaries. Formerly men and
200 The Sea Gypsy
women were separated into different compounds at
nightfall. Now they sleep together in one large room
in the Fijian house. This has caused much immoral-
ity. This immorality has also greatly increased the
practice of abortion, which was always prevalent in the
Fijis, perhaps more so than among any other peoples
of the world. Despite stringent laws, in nearly every
Fijian village there are one or more "wise women"
who know certain savagely efficient herbs for this pur-
Because of the hard life which the Fijian woman has
after marriage, she is not anxious to marry young. In
one of Pope's villages a chief told me that he had be-
come so worried over the failure of his young women
to marry, that he had arranged a betrothal dance. The
young women were lined up on one side of the dancing-
ground and the young men, dressed in their gayest
sulus, their bodies glistening with oil, on the other.
The young warriors danced a dance of love, then at a
signal stopped suddenly, and each rolled an orange
across the grass to the feet of one of the girls. Ac-
cording to the chief's plan, every girl was to marry the
man whose orange she picked up. Not a single girl
lifted the betrothal fruit from the ground.
The marriage of a high chief to the daughter of a
chief of another tribe, however, is an occasion of great
rejoicing for the women of the tribe as well as the men.
As soon as the girl is established in her new home, her
husband, accompanied by all his clan, returns with her
to her old home. The visitors have the right to take
Son of a Cannibal King 201
everything they wish from the bride's father's villages.
And they usually make a clean sweep of it. But I was
told that the losers take their loss cheerfully, picturing
the day when their turn will come.
Some days after the dinner with Pope we left Mbau.
With us went Pope and forty minor chiefs, who were
going to Suva to present gifts and to hold a kava cere-
mony in honor of the British Governor, who was
shortly to leave for England. I found that many of
these chiefs could speak English. Some had been edu-
cated at universities in Australia, as had Pope, and
most were loyal to the British government. It seemed
hard to believe that they were leaders of a people who,
only a generation before, had been among the most
feared of the savage cannibals of the South Sea.
The one of these chiefs we met at the ceremony for
the departure of the governor who impressed us most
strongly was the High Chief Rabici, a dignified middle-
aged man dressed in European clothing who spoke
English fully as well as his nephew Ratu Pope. He in-
vited us to visit him on the beautiful island of Taviuni,
the Garden of the Fijis, over which he rules as governor,
though his father bore the title of King, as Ratu Pope
still does among his people.
We sailed the Wisdom to Taviuni with the High Chief
aboard, and landed on the island. After luncheon
with this son of a Cannibal King in his modern bunga-
low, which was surrounded by a lovely garden, we de-
202 The Sea Gypsy
scended to a village below, where the High Chief said
he would entertain us in exactly the same fashion as
would have his forefathers, "except for one thing' ' he
added with a smile. We smiled, too, for we knew what
he meant. No human steaks would be brought from
We took seats, Taylor and I, on either side of the
High Chief on a place half way up the slight slope of a
small natural amphitheater. The High Chief and we
Americans were the only persons in European dress.
Chiefs of lower rank sat, according to their degree, at
our sides. Facing us was a huge wooden bowl, carved
out of a single log, and toward this great bowl marched
in solemn procession a group of warriors bearing a big
kava root. A second group took the root, cut it up
and pounded it into a fine mass, then poured it into the
ceremonial bowl. The water to mix with the root was
borne by still another group, who carried two big hol-
low bamboos, about eight feet tall.
When the water had been poured in, the local chief,
who was sitting by the bowl, strained the liquid by
dragging a bunch of green bark fiber through it. He
repeated this a number of times, each time passing the
strainer to an attendant beside him, whose duty it was
to shake and return it. Then when the Chief was at last
satisfied that the kava was free of sediment he filled
half a coconut shell and, with a deep bow, passed it to
the High Chief Rabici.
Rabici solemnly poured a little of the kava on the
ground, raised the coconut shell cup and in a loud voice
Son of a Cannibal King 203
called out ' ' Bula-loloma " (life-love), and drank the cup
to the dregs. Then, with a single gesture, he flung the
cup from him and sent it spinning like a top across the
ground to directly in front of the kava bowl. The en-
tire assembly began to clap their hands in loud ap-
plause. After this everyone else drank in order of
rank, giving us, as guests, the precedence.
Now came a surprise. We had often heard of the
sacred custom of the presentation of the whale's tooth.
Indeed we had seen the assembly of Chiefs at Suva give
one to the departing British Governor, but we also
knew that the tooth of the whale was given only on im
portant occasions and then by High Chiefs to others of
equal rank. Imagine our surprise, therefore, when
Ratu Rabici suddenly produced the finest whale's
tooth I had seen in Fiji, and, with a very courteous
speech, gave it to me, while his nephew handed a
smaller one to Taylor, saying "An ancient tabua as a
token of friendship."
But this was only the beginning of our reception, for
as the whales' teeth were presented a hundred warriors
swung into the glade. They were covered with leaves
and flowers, their bodies glistened with oil and their
faces were painted with red streaks. Each carried a
huge war club in one hand, a big yam in the other.
At their head was a young chief, dragging a train of
tapa cloth seventy-five feet long. Behind the warriors
walked fifty young women, likewise covered with
flowers, and each wearing a brand new skirt of tapa
204 The Sea Gypsy
The girls moved to one side and began to chant the
ancient song which once sent the cannibal warriors of
Fiji out to get human meat for their ovens. As they
sang, the men began to dance, all moving in perfect
unison. The dance grew faster and faster but the war
clubs all rose and fell together as the shining, flower-
bedecked bodies of the dancers swayed back and forth.
Suddenly, moving like one man, they all dropped to the
ground. Then the girls took up the dance, telling by
their postures and songs the story of our visit. As the
last note of their song died away they came forward and
passing by us one by one laid their tapa cloth skirts at
our feet, while the men brought forward gifts of turtles
and yams. Custom required that we return these
presents, which we did, after which the dancers and
guests and Chiefs alike gathered about for a great
Except for the dress of the High Chief, who still sat
at our side and the sound of his cultivated English all
this might have taken place in the old Fiji of cannibal
days. Modern Suva seemed a hundred years away.
AMERICA'S HAPPY ISLES
rVEN the crew of a gypsy craft can feel a thrill to
realize that they are heading for a lonely island
group over which flies the flag of their own country.
Everybody of the afterguard of the Wisdom was on
deck to catch the first glimpse of the iron-bound coast
of American Samoa.
As we approached we saw a shallow undulation of the
shore-line. We sailed on into this and found ourselves
in a curving bay; then, turning to the left through an
entrance like the neck of a bottle, we came into the
wonderful harbor of Pago Pago, which is big enough to
hold the entire American Pacific fleet. It is really a
submerged crater, and the mountains that surround it
give perfect protection against the hurricanes of the
The mail steamer had just preceded us into the har-
bor, and beach and dock were crowded when we came
ashore in my launch. Big, fine-looking native men and
women, almost pure Polynesian, were loaded down with
bundles and baskets full of fans, model canoes, bananas
206 The Sea Gypsy
and pineapples, with which to catch the tourists. Scat-
tered among them were a number of fita-fitas, Samoan
soldiers who now serve under the American flag, in the
only place on land south of the equator where it flies.
These soldiers were barefooted and wore red turbans,
white navy undershirts and lava-lavas, short native
skirts of black with red borders.
I called on the Governor, Captain Waldo Evans,
U. S. A., and he invited me to dinner that night. After
dinner we sat on the big veranda on the second floor.
The scene was bewitching: the wooded mountains out-
lined in the soft light of the full moon, myriads of stars,
the dark bay with the twinkling lanterns of the boats,
and from the little native town below the sound of a
chorus singing some song of love. But notwithstand-
ing the beauty of the night and the charming courtesy of
our host, there was a hint of melancholy there. We
later found the reason. Not long before, for the first
time since the Americans had taken charge, trouble had
been stirred up among the natives by a white lawyer
from Honolulu. And shortly before the arrival of the
U. S. S.S. Kansas with an investigation committee, the
American Governor committed suicide because of worry
over this problem. Captain Evans, the head of the in-
vestigating committee, was appointed governor. In
dealing with agitators and with unrest among the na-
tives, he was kind, but firm. There had been bitter
personal tragedy, but the prestige of the American
naval regime had not been destroyed.
The Department of the Navy has indeed done won-
America's Happy Isles 207
ders for American Samoa. Natives do not die of
white men's diseases there. An American hospital
with naval doctors and trained nurses has been es-
tablished. All inhabitants receive free medical treat-
ment. They are inoculated against smallpox and
protected by quarantine against diseases from outside
sources. When the United States took over the
islands, the population was 5,679. Now it is 8,058.
And that is not immigrant increase. There are only
180 whites on the islands. The United States has not
attempted to force its form of civilization on the people.
In Tutuila and Manua every effort is made to have the
natives, even though they are "Christianized," live ac-
cording to their old-time customs. The bringing in of
sawn timber is forbidden. European clothes are not
put on brown bodies. The import of liquor is banned.
But the United States has done far more than simply
attend to the health of the natives. At the end of the
first two years of occupation the chiefs asked that the
government take over the business of selling their copra,
the most important form of wealth. Now, every year,
the government receives open bids from all parts of
the world for the produce of the islands. It sells at the
highest possible price, and the profits go direct to the
natives. The purchase of land by whites is not per-
On returning from Captain Evan's dinner, I was
puzzled to see a long string of lights curling out from
the stern of my yacht like a great snake. I ran my
launch up to them and saw that the snake was made up
208 The Sea Gypsy
of about fifty native canoes, tied to one another, and
that the first was fastened to the Wisdom. On each
canoe was a light made of leaves dipped in kerosene and
thrust out from the boatside in a wire basket. The
Samoans were fishing. It was a curious performance.
They were casting with little pieces of cotton for bait,
and mackerel were biting at them as trout take flies.
On the other side of the boats men were fishing with
hand lines baited with small mackerel. Big fish, ten
to twelve pounders, would strike at these and be hauled
I put my cot on the poop and for a long time watched
the native fishermen by the light of the moon. Just as
I was dozing off, a canoe came alongside, and two smil-
ing natives carried a big tub of fish on deck, saying,
"For Captain." One of these chaps came aboard the
next day with his wife and brought me other presents.
I tried to give him something in return. Tears came
into his eyes. "Master Captain," he said, "you make
mistake. I no want trade. I like you." I tried again
to make him accept something. "No, no, Master
Captain," he said, "I no boy. I man, I got heart same
as white man."
A day or two later Captain Evans invited me to go
with him in his barge on a malanga, a visit to a native
tribe. With the natives a visit means a trip from place
to place. At each spot the native host is obliged lav-
ishly to entertain his guests, who usually stay until
America's Happy Isles 209
they have eaten everything good on hand and then
move on to another victim. We contented ourselves
with one visit. We went to see the chief of Aua village,
at the foot of Rainmaker.
At the edge of the palm grove on the beach, the chief,
with twenty under-chief s behind him, came to meet us.
He was a big man, heavy-jowled and three-stomached,
with a headdress of horsehair. He wore with dignity a
naval officer's old white coat and a white lava-lava.
We shook hands gravely with him and then with his
under-chiefs, and they escorted us to the village, where
some three hundred natives were waiting to meet us.
As we walked along, one of the officers whispered to me
that the chief had been opposed to the government the
year before, but now that Captain Evans had put an-
other chief to breaking rocks along the roads, he had
thought better of his attitude. At any rate, he gave us
a royal reception.
It began as usual with the kava ceremony, for which we
all sat cross-legged on the edge of a clearing in front of
the chief's house. Six men dragged on a kava root as
big as a young oak tree. At the kava-drinking the
commanders and lieutenant commanders were served
before Mrs. Evans, though she was served before the
lower-grade officers. The natives are as stiff on preced-
ence as the royalty of a small German principality.
After the kava ceremony came innumerable speeches.
Then drums began to beat, and tw^o girls came running
and jumping before us, followed by the people in line,
bearing gifts — rugs, grass mats, tapa cloth, chickens,
The Sea Gypsy
pigs, eggs and coconuts. As each man came up, he bowed
almost to the ground and laid his gift at Captain
Evan's feet. The attitude of the women was even
Dinner was served in the chief's house, built like the
dwellings of the other natives, but somewhat larger.
Instead of being in orderly rows as in Fiji, the houses
were placed quite irregularly. They were round, about
one hundred feet in circumference, with the domelike
roofs of thatched palm or coconut leaves resting on up-
rights four feet apart. The walls were made of plaited
coconut-leaf curtains, which could be rolled up so as to
give good ventilation. The floors were laid with stones.
The interior of each house was one large room, with no
furniture except rolls of tapa mats. The Samoans do
not sleep crowded against each other. At nightfall a
number of native-woven mosquito-nettings are set up
about the beds of tapa mats with hard bamboo pillows,
one for each member of the household. One of the
peculiarities of the Samoan house is that it is made to
be moved. The top can be lifted off the uprights and
carried away in four sections without injury. Houses
are sometimes given as wedding gifts.
The house builders are a separate guild. The trade
descends from father to son. From the head of a
family the carpenter receives his order for a house, and
together with his apprentices he begins to work, with-
out any discussion of payment. If he is dissatisfied,
he simply leaves his work unfinished. Professional
ethics forbids any other carpenter to complete the work.
Americas Happy Isles 211
And the house remains unbuilt unless the stingy man
by double gifts and prayers can persuade his carpenter
to go on.
Our meal in the chief 's house was a great feast. The
only peculiar food was palolo, a sea-worm which is
caught on the surface of the ocean at sunrise. It lives
in the barrier reef, and comes to the surface in the night
of the last quarter of the moon in either October or
November. Afterwards in the clearing where the
kava ceremony had taken place the villagers give siva-
siva dances. The first one was given by thirty young
men clad only in lava-lavas. Their hair was covered
with headdresses of horsehair. Their bodies were
shiny with coconut oil, and the play of their muscles
glistening in the sunlight as they danced in perfect uni-
son through the most difficult figures, was beautiful.
The only touch of the ludicrous came from the black
moustaches painted on their faces.
At their head was a beautiful young girl, the taubo
of the tribe. The taubo maiden is chosen by the heads
of the families to represent the tribe as almost a sort of
deity on all great occasions. Formerly she led the war-
riors to battle. Now, as then, she leads them in the
dance. Her virtue is the tribe's honor. She cannot
marry without the consent of the council composed of
the heads of all the village families, though her father
be chief. The price paid for her by the chief of an-
other village is very great, and the mats, houses,
canoes, and pigs are divided among the people of her
village. When this taubo girl of Aua danced lightly
212 The Sea Gypsy
out at the head of the men, there was a gasp of admira-
tion from the whites. She was perhaps eighteen and
perfectly formed. Only a short, light skirt of leaves
covered the grace of her body. A string of small red
beads hung from her neck, just touching her rounded
breasts. Not even her huge headdress of human hair
and ornaments could spoil her loveliness. She was a
vision of pure delight.
The dance was tremendously complicated; yet not
in a single instance did one of the dancers miss a step,
though the tempo of their graceful movements changed
a dozen times in a minute. The dance told the story
of a warrior's life. He took his bride; he fought his
enemy; he landed a canoe through the breakers; he
speared fish — these and a hundred other things. We
could understand no word of the accompanying songs;
yet so expressive were the dances that we made out the
stories they told.
The Samoan native government, I discovered during
my four weeks' stay at Pago Pago, is based on a patri-
archal communism. The head of the family has abso-
lute power over his group. To the family belong his
brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren, and also
many children by adoption. The heads of the village
families elect a village chief ; the village chiefs, a district
chief; and the district chiefs, a high chief. Though
chieftainship often descends from father to son, this is
not always so; and if a chief becomes obnoxious, he
A Girl of Samoa
America's Happy Isles 215
may be removed. Pride of family is very strong among
men of noble blood, and the Samoan language is lavish
of high-sounding titles.
Within the family there is a communistic idea of
property. The men fish, build canoes and make copra
for the common use of the family; the women make
mats and cook for the same unit. As the families are
large, extending to distant and complicated relation-
ship, the lazy man benefits. This system also results
in shameless begging. It is quite all right for a man to
ask anything he wishes from any other member of the
family, and impossible that he be refused.
The life of a Samoan woman is pleasant. She is
neither overworked nor savagely treated. From her
earliest childhood she is trained in the intricacies of the
siva-siva, and all her life the dance is a source of pleas-
ure to her. Samoan women will always dance for you
if you ask them, and they show by their smiles and
songs how much they delight in granting the request.
In their girlhood they deck themselves with flowers and
garlands of leaves and are fond of coquetry but, unlike
their Polynesian sisters of the Marquesas and Society
Islands, they are chaste.
Before the coming of the Americans with new medical
theories, the life of an infant was doubtful, and even
now the old customs are carried out in some villages, it
is said. The new-born child was laid on its back, and
three flat stones were placed around the head. To
make the baby beautiful the family thought it neces-
sary to flatten the forehead and nose. Nothing is
216 The Sea Gypsy
uglier, they feel, than our hideous, pointed "canoe-
noses." The baby was fed with filtered coconut-juice
for three days, while a "wise woman" tested the
mother's milk. Often the child died. The birth of a
child is the occasion for a feast. The father's man
friends bring presents which they give to the mother's
woman friends, and vice versa.
Children are carefully trained. The mother takes
charge of the daughters, and the father, of the sons.
The Americans have established schools, and many of
the younger generation now speak English. Both
girls and boys are anxious to be recognized as women
and men. A girl becomes a woman at marriage ; a boy,
when tattooed. This custom is usually observed when
the lad is sixteen. It is a severe operation. The boy
does not face it alone. He gathers a half dozen friends
of like age, and all go together to the tattooer who, like
the housebuilder, is a member of a very select profes-
sion. The tattooer takes his needle, made of human
bone, dips it into a composition of candlenut, ashes and
water, puts it against the skin and raps the point in
with blows from a mallet. When the boy can no longer
stand the pain, another takes his place. The process
requires about two months. At the end of that time,
the boy is tattooed from waist to knee.
Shortly before we left Pago Pago, Flag-Raising Day,
the anniversary of the first unfurling of the Stars
and Stripes over the islands, was celebrated. The
flag-raising was solemn and impressive. On the parade-
ground, a beautiful stretch of green fringed with coco-
Americas Happy Isles 219
nut-trees, the American naval officers in crisp white
uniforms were grouped around the flagpole. Then
came a section of blue-jackets and a company of fita-
fitas. Farther back among the trees were the na-
tives in gala costume. When the American flag went
up to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner," played
by the fita-fita band, not only the whites but the thou-
sands of natives stood at attention. Next, the
Governor and other officials made speeches. The
championship contests followed. Pago Pago was
crowded, for people had come from all over the group
to take part. All the chiefs were there with their best
dancers and boat-crews and cricket-teams. The after-
noon began with coconut-opening contests for the men
and basket-making for the women, and it ended with
foot-races and cricket. The cricket-match lasted two
days. The most exciting event of the entire festival
was the long-boat races. The barges used were double-
banked and had thirty-six " crack" oarsmen to a crew.
A week later we sailed from Pago Pago with regret.
It had been good to find that the islands of American
Samoa, were, in truth, the "happy isles."
LEPERS — AND WOMEN — AND FISH
CVERYBODY aboard the Wisdom had but lately
read O'Brien's tales of the South Seas, and I think
most of the younger men aboard had visions of beauti-
ful island girls swimming out to meet us, when we
sighted at dawn Hiva-oa, the easternmost island of the
Marquesas. Dead ahead, a mountain jutted up out of
the sea, grey in the early morning light. As we ap-
proached, the sun swooped up, the sea turned from
black to purple, and the grey mass ahead hardened into
a series of mountain tops with sloping walls of dark
Then we dropped anchor in a little half- moon bay
on the north coast — a gem of emerald beauty, tranquil,
unspoiled. My crew crowded the forward rails, wait-
ing for the canoes full of joyous natives, for the swim-
ming girls with their flower-decked hair.
On the shore, no sign of life. Half an hour we
waited. Then we saw a single little outrigger canoe
heading toward us. It floated against the yacht's side.
Three brown faces, sickly and drawn, one smallpox
Lepers— and Women— and Fish 221
scarred, stared up at us. The legs of the man steering
were hideously swollen. Elephantiasis.
"What place is this?" we asked in French. The
bloated man lifted his face listlessly.
"A leper village," he replied.
We sailed from here to the village of Atuona, the
capital of Hiva-oa, a small group of wooden shacks and
galvanized iron roofs. Its population is made up of
some three hundred natives, a few half-breeds and
Chinese, the French governor, gendarmerie and a
priest. It lies on a little bay at the bottom of a great
half crater of a volcano, the other half having broken
away ages ago and slid into the sea. On the inner side
of the crater a lovely garden of green, splashed with
multitudinous gorgeous flowers and huge boulders, has
grown up. Everywhere coconut, mango, breadfruit
and orange trees, and innumerable waterfalls make the
scene strangely beautiful.
But something has been twisted out of shape in na-
ture's scheme. At every turn I saw rotting thatched
roofs, villages not dying, but dead. Occasionally girls
and men would pass with something of the ancient
beauty of the race, but most of them were thin and
sickly. The Marquesan race has dwindled from over
a hundred thousand to less than two thousand in a
century. There was no doubt of what I had so often
been told. In another few years it will have disap-
"And then," I asked myself, "what will become
of these magnificent islands? Will they turn into
222 The Sea Gypsy
deserted gardens of loveliness?" I thought of the
slums of great cities, children by thousands, hollow-
cheeked, starved for air and sunshine. Why could they
not be carried here? But all too clearly it came to me
that in these seductive islands no white man has ever
done hand labor. He may become a master, and fail-
ing that, a beach-comber — but a worker, never. This
is not a white man's land.
I came to the outskirts of Atuona, where, on marshy
ground, a group of a dozen shacks sprawled — the
Chinese colony. I stopped in the tiny trading store of
Chang, an old Chinese who had lived long in San
Francisco, to ask a drink of water. In the rear room I
heard the clatter of pans where his native wife was at
"Chang," I asked, "do you like it here?"
"Yes, Atuona good," he said.
1 ' And your children ? ' '
Gravely he walked to the door. He pointed out
toward the coconut groves. "My sons half -Chinese.
They no play. They like 'urn work like hell ! " he said.
That was the answer to the problem. The Chinese !
Bred to labor, immunized by a hundred epidemics from
the diseases whose lightest touch is fatal to the Mar-
quesans, these tremendously vital Chinese have im-
parted to their half -Asiatic sons the capacity to work
industriously in a land where the natives have played
through all time.
Here at Hiva-oa, Louis, fat, jolly, half -Portuguese %
half-Tahitian, and Philip, lean, quarter-breed French-
Lepers— and Women- -and Fish 223
man, two rival traders, and I were sitting under a rude
canvas awning on the deck of Louis's 8o-foot trading
schooner. The boat was abominably dirty. Cock-
roaches and copra-bugs swarmed everywhere. But
the two trading captains, undisturbed and happy,
bragged to each other of how each had warned chiefs
against the other as a cheating scoundrel. I think
both spoke the truth.
Then said Philip : " Why don't you sail for Papeete,
Louis? You have plenty of copra aboard."
"My engineer's mother — she die Thursday. I wait
for her to die," he answered.
Philip nodded his head comprehensively. But I
thought a moment. "This is Monday, Louis," I said;
"how do you know she is going to die on Thursday?"
Louis explained that natives seem to see death com-
ing from afar off. One day a woman will appear quite
well. Then she will announce that on a certain day,
perhaps a week or more later on, she will die — and die
she does. Superstition, self -hypnotism, call it what
you will — she dies.
But I was skeptical, and on Thursday, with most of
my crew, at Louis's invitation, I went to the women's
village. The grave was dug, the relatives and friends
were all there — and the woman who was to die was
walking calmly among them. She insisted that the
burial feast be held anyhow. The meal was cooked in
a large, home-made tireless cooker — a pit some five
feet in diameter by two feet deep, dug in the earth near
a stream. The women had been to the mouth of the
224 The Sea Gypsy
stream with nets and had brought back baskets of
fresh shrimps. A half-dozen pigs had been killed. A
number of chickens had been put to death in the pecu-
liar way of the islands. A woman pulls out one of the
large feathers from the fowl that is to die and thrusts it
sharply into the back of the chicken's neck. The luck-
less chickens had been cooked over separate fires,
and their meat shredded away from the bones. Green
taro leaves were cut up, mixed with the chicken meat
and laid in baskets of green banana leaves. On these
baskets was squeezed the milk of coconuts. Then
breadfruit was peeled with a conch-shell and the
shrimps were enfolded in leaf baskets.
All these delicacies — pigs, shrimps and chicken —
were laid on a grate made of stalks from green coconut
leaves, which had been placed on the hot rocks in the
bottom of the pit. This layer was then covered first
with banana leaves, next with mats of burau leaves, and
finally with damp earth. Every hole which emitted a
jet of escaping steam was carefully plugged. In an
hour the earth was taken off, and a delicious meal
served us on leaf dishes. By each plate was a self -filled
cup made by cutting away the top of a green coconut.
First the men ate; then the women; then the dogs;
and finally the pigs. All stuffed to the utmost. And
over the entire funeral feast presided the woman who
was to have died that day ! We thanked her, as hostess,
and went away on the path leading past her open grave.
She died the following Monday.
From the Marquesas, we sailed to Tahiti where, one
Lepers— and Women— and Fish 225
night at a dinner at Papeete, the capital of the Society
Islands, I was seated beside a beautiful woman. Gown,
slippers, manners seemed to mark her as a French
woman of delicate training. She was a Tahitian, the
Princess Tekau, direct descendant of the old Tahitian
A week later, I sailed with the princess, her cousin,
and Warren Wood, a former California yachtsman, and
his mother, for Morea, an island near Tahiti. Here, to
the natives, this princess, though divested of all power
by the French, was still their queen. At her order, a
hundred girls and men danced the hula-hula and a great
feast was prepared — raw fish in lime-juice sauce,
steamed crawfish, breadfruit with coco-cream sauce,
barbecued young pig, baked taro and bananas, and a
pudding made of arrowroot and dried bananas. But
the greatest of all the delicacies was heart-of-palm
salad, called the "thousand-dollar salad," because
made from the heart of the leaf-cluster of a coconut-
tree eight years old. To get it the tree must be de-
At dinner in town the week before, the princess was a
perfect European. Today, she was a princess among
her own people — thoroughly loyal to them, thoroughly
proud of them. She stuffed her fingers in her mouth
with the food and drew them out with a loud sucking
noise; and then looked at me and laughed.
"Make lots of noise, Captain," she bantered com-
mandingly. "They won't think you are enjoying
yourself unless you do." I obliged.
226 The Sea Gypsy
Jack London visited Bora Bora many years ago in
the Snark and called it The High Seat of Abundance.
So, too, we found it. Its chief also apparently finds it
the same, for when we anchored off the little village of
Viatape a canoe came out to meet us, and a great round
grinning face followed by a three hundred pound body
came climbing over the side. We hadn't time to re-
cover from our astonishment when another face and
body just as big followed the first. Chief Tetaunimar-
ama and his twin brother had come to bid us welcome.
Now on other islands of this part of the South Seas
they danced what they call hula-hula, but you must go
to Bora Bora really to see it. The Chief invited us to
attend a dance that night. The signal for dancing was
given by the French gendarme who is the real ruler of
the merry island. He hung out a lantern in front of
his little bungalow that night, and soon fifty-odd vil-
lage boys and girls came hurrying onto the green stretch
of ground in front of the gendarme's house. In their
hair were thrust white flowers, their brown bodies shone
through their light white waists, while loose scarlet
pareus dropped to their knees. The moon shone
brightly, and the light from burning bundles of dry
leaves flickered across the dancing ground. The na-
tive band, made up of a tin pan and a home-made
drum, began to play, and the boys and girls to hula-
hula. And how they danced. It is worth while sailing
across the Pacific to see the youths and maidens of
Bora Bora dance just once. They danced for three
Lepers— and Women— and Fish 227
hours, and then, hot, tired and happy strolled off into
the moonlight — in pairs.
But if the hula-hula is worth making an ocean
journey to witness, so too is the fish drive of the island.
There is nothing else quite like it in the world that I
know of. One was given for the Wisdom, for our visit
was a time of festival, as only once in a great while do
ships stop at Bora Bora, and then only island traders.
Nature has given the islanders a special trap for the
drive. The entire island is surrounded by a reef, mak-
ing a lagoon about a mile and a half in width running
completely around the island. At one point inside this
reef and half a mile from shore there is a miniature atoll
of coral, eighty feet in diameter, and three feet across
at the mouth. The outer barrier reef is connected with
one side of the mouth of this natural trap by a coral
formation, and it is the trick of the natives to drive
the fish against this and then on into the miniature
There was a great commotion on shore the morning
set for the drive. There was a blowing of conch shells,
and shouts of the happy fishers. There was dancing
and singing as they waited for the tide to go down.
Then a native missionary prayed for good luck, and at
a given signal a hundred canoes darted out together
from the shore. I accompanied the chief. The canoes
were filled with men, women and children all in their
Sunday best, scarlet pareus, and palm-leaf hats bound
about with garlands of fresh flowers. As the canoes
drew near the place of the drive the women pluged
228 The Sea Gypsy
into the water, Sunday clothes and all, each carrying
a big mat. Children and women for whom there had
been no place in the boats came wading out to join
them. Standing anywhere from knee to neck deep
they formed a line opposite to the rock palisade and
began to weave their mats together. In half an hour
they had thus formed a natural fence, which they held
under water and against their legs. This fence and the
rock palisade made an inverted funnel leading to the
It was now the work of the men to drive the fish into
In the canoes they had paddled out and formed a wide
semicircle facing in toward the trap. In the bow of each
canoe stood a man holding in his hand two flat stones
fastened to thirty feet of light rope. The leaders of the
drive rode at the ends of the semicircle carrying red
flags. The leader at the right waved his flag; and, at
this, the men in the boats, shouting wildly, began to
paddle forward. At the same time the stone throwers
heaved their rocks as far as they could in front of them
and into the water, the rocks clashing together as they
struck. The effect on the fish, which seemed to throng
the lagoon, was soon noticeable. They began to jump
madly and, driven on by the sounds of the stones
thrashing together, they moved shoreward in excited
The canoes came steadily in, always keeping the fish
before them, changing the direction of the drive by
directions given the flag wavers. As the drive ap-
Lepers— and Women— and Fish 229
proached the funnel, the women stirred up the water
by moving their legs back and forth. This frightened
the fish, who were darting against the mats, out again
into the passage.
The canoes came up to the outer line of the funnel,
and the water within literally churned with thousands
of fish. At that the outer end of the line of women
began to turn slowly in. With a rush they finished the
circling movement, and with their mats completely
covered the mouth of the atoll trap.
There was a silence as the native preacher gave
thanks once more. When he finished, the fat chief
lifted his hand, and pandemonium broke loose. Every-
body tried to jump into the trap at once — men with
spears, and women and children grabbing the strug-
gling fish in their arms. Before I could realize it a
score of canoes had been filled with what seemed every
kind of fish under the sun. But only enough were
taken ashore to supply two feasts, then the mouth
of the trap was opened and the rest allowed to escape.
We were the guests; the fish were ours; but happily
ours only in name, and they were cooked ashore at the
two great feasts that were given us there.
When we left Bora-Bora twenty canoes came out
bearing gifts. They piled the decks of the Wisdom to
overflowing. Our departure resembled so greatly that
of the Snark that I cannot forbear to quote London's
description of it :
"But the abundance ! There was so much of it. We could
not work the Snark for the fruit that was in the way. She
230 The Sea Gypsy
was festooned with fruit. The life-boat and launch were
packed with it. The awning guys groaned under their
burden. But once we struck the full trade-wind, the dis-
burdening began." (How true this was of the Wisdom.)
"At every roll the Snark shook overboard a bunch or so of
bananas and coconuts, or a basket of limes. A golden flood
of limes washed about in the lee-scuppers. The big baskets
of yams burst, and pineapples and pomegranates rolled back
and forth. The chickens had got loose and were every-
where, roosting on the awnings fluttering and squawking
out on the jib-boom and essaying the perilous feat of
balancing on the spinnaker-boom. They were wild
chickens, accustomed to flight. When attempts were
made to catch them they flew out over the ocean,
circled about, and came back. Sometimes they did not
come back. And in the confusion, unobserved, the little
sucking pig got loose and slipped overboard."
THAT CALM RED SEA
IT is a long sail from Bora Bora to the Red Sea, and, of
course, most of the places I have already written
about were touched at while the Wisdom was wandering
through the waters between these two points; but, just
as the Wisdom was a gypsy in her sailing, so I have
wandered gypsy fashion in my writing. But I had a
reason. If I had started with the first chapter in this
book to write about the Marquesas Islands in the South
Seas, which was therfirst stop of the Wisdom when she
sailed from Los Angeles on her three years ' cruise, it is
probable that you would not have read this book, for
people are tired of reading of the "mystic isles" of
Polynesia, the editors say.
But this night when you now find the Wisdom, she
has just entered the southern end of the Red Sea, and
is being driven by a spanking breeze north for Suez.
Now everybody who has ever read anything about
the East knows that the Red Sea is a long, abnormally
calm body of oily black water. Well, everybody
knows just wrong. The Red Sea isn't like that at all.
The Sea Gypsy
The Red Sea is a thirteen-hundred-mile stretch of
water-treachery. It is a mixture of contrary gales, of
shifting sands and shoals, and lighthouses that don't
light and decrepit coast villages filled with hostile
Bedouins, and pilots who don't know how to pilot. At
any rate that is the Red Sea in February. If you don't
believe it ask any of the heterogeneous crew of my ship
and you will find my opinion of it embellished by the
entire vocabulary of half a dozen nations.
During our first night up that body of water we were
supposed to pass the lighthouse of Mokha, once famous
for its coffee, a deserted town on the southwest coast of
Yemen, in Arabia. The sailing directions said that the
light stood 170 feet above the water, and was visible 19
miles away. A fine guide of brilliant white flashes to
make plain the danger of a wicked coast to mariners
sailing down the dark of the night. A fine guide,
but . . .
I was awakened by a tremendous shock which almost
threw me out of my bunk. In a second I was scram-
bling up the companionway stairs. I clung to the rail-
ing as I mounted, for the Wisdom was almost on her
side, and she shook and quivered like a mad thing. I
knew it could only be one of two things — reef or rocks ;
and that, as stoutly built as she was, the little sea
gypsy could not stand buffeting long ; it would tear the
bottom out of any craft that ever floated. As I swung
up on deck a great roller hurled itself in with crashing
force, breaking clear over the ship; the rushing water
struck me full in face and body, choking me, and I just
That Calm Red Sea 233
managed to grasp the life line to save myself from being
swept over the side.
I hung on, and took one quick glance around. By
moonlight I could see the figures of the watch on deck,
hanging on to anything they had been able to grasp,
and the watch below coming tumbling up. Up came
big Mac, naked but for a bright red, white-flowered
South Sea pareou ; up came Shorty Schoedsack, his tall
frame covered with gorgeous purple pajamas; up came
Cooper, bare to the waist, with a hideous bright red
Malay sarong clinging about his legs. From forward
came John, stark naked, but with his knife swinging to
the belt fastened about his bare middle, and Fiji Jack,
wearing only a flapping undershirt. All were swinging
along desperately, for the Wisdom had tilted still farther
over since she had first struck and was now held hard
on by the force of a spanking breeze beating against her
sails. The big mainsail, fluttering like some wild bird
caught in a snare, was almost touching the water, and
the waves which broke over the deck were likewise
drenching its lower half. But the Wisdom did not
move ; she was hard and fast on a reef of some kind ; if a
sand bar there was a chance ; if a reef of coral the ship
was done for.
We had run almost dead ahead into danger for I could
just make out in front of us the quiet waters of a shoal,
while the mainland was only a few hundred yards away.
From seaward thousands of tons of water swept in in
the shape of huge rollers, which broke themselves into
a thousand parts with deafening roars on the reef on
234 The Sea Gypsy
which our little ship lay. Ten minutes of this, and she
would break up; a fierce gust of wind, and over she
would go. It looked like the finish. Should we take
to the boats or have a shot at saving her?
''Take the chance, take the chance," I thought.
"Down with the mainsail!" Taylor springs to the
main peak halliard, and the rest of the crew string out
somehow along the mainsheet. Down comes the peak;
and, as the wind spills out of the mainsail, the men on
its sheet begin to haul mightily. Ordinarily it is a
long, hard job to get in that sail against a stiff wind,
and we have to luff her up so that there is little pressure
against it ; but you cannot luff a ship that is stuck on a
reef. All that can be done is to pull, and pull for life.
Every wave that strikes seems as if it will break the
bottom out of her, and it is certain that with full sail
on her in a few moments she will turn turtle.
1 ' Lay on her, boys, lay on her ! "
And how they lay on her ! There is no way to stand
firm on that deck, for it is tilted far over at a shoot-the-
shoots angle, and no shoot-the-shoots was ever more
slippery. Impossible — but they do it. Nobody
whines, nobody loses his head except the frightened
mess-boys, who are clinging on forward, Shamrock
down on his knees either trying to pray or knocked
there by the last wave. Mac's New England twang
sounds slow and undisturbed, in regular cadence:
"Heave — heave — heave." And somehow, with the
word, they grip that sliding slippery deck with their
That Calm Red Sea 235
bare feet and heave away. Someone starts the old
chanty, sung on the Wisdom at a hundred up anchors.
"I'd a Bible in my hand, when I sailed, when I
sailed . . ."
And to the beat and swing of it they heave.
Through the dark, above the crash and roar of the sea,
sounds the last harsh rhythm of the chanty:
"I'd a Bible in my hand
By my father's great command,
But I sunk it in the sand . . ."
"All together now!" cries Mac.
Ends the chanty: "When I sailed."
On the last word the boom gives the last few pre-
cious inches, and is in. And now they swing on the down-
haul; and now, struggling and righting, the big brown
canvas starts down ; but just as it does the ship gives a
tremendous forward lurch. Sinking? No, by God!
She's off! She's off!
With that she slides over the sand bar, but the miz-
zensail jibes ; the boom tackle holds, and the mizzensail
rips to tatters. For a long breathless second the ship
rests on the back of a swell; then the swell rolls forward,
the ship slides down its side and the stern strikes bottom
with a gut-shattering shock. It is evident that the
depth inside the bar is less than the ship's present
draught. And we soon realized why, and at what a
cost. At that last tremendous jar the entire ten-ton
lead keel, which had enabled the Wisdom to carry
heavy canvas, has been torn off, and now remains stuck
236 The Sea Gypsy
in the sand bar, while the ship floats clear. Only if it
is now low tide, and the tide is coming in, have we a
chance in a thousand of finding an opening out through
the bar at dawn ; if the tide is high and running out, we
can never make it.
But there is not time to think of that now, for the
ship is being blown farther shoreward. So: "Let go
the anchor." They heave up that five-hundred-pound
anchor from the shocks as if it were a thistle, and over
she goes and down she goes — and holds.
For the moment we are safe, for the sand bar breaks
the heavy surf, and here inside the bar is only a deep
swell, but even this swell lets the Wisdom down on
the bottom with terrific crashes. The stern is taking
the heaviest blows, so we pump our drinking water,
which is in the after compartments, over the side, and
shift the stores from the lazaret to the forecastle
There is nothing to do now, but shoot distress
rockets — which fizzle dismally — and wait for the dawn,
On the shore a light nickered along the sands. And
I remembered what I had been told at Aden by men
whose business it was to sail the Arabian coast. "It's
a damned bad place to be wrecked on," they said.
' ' The Bedouins will do you in for the loot on your ship
without the slightest compunction if they think they
can get away with it."
So I ordered Cooper and Dresser, the Dane, to get
the guns ready, and Schoedsack to solder up the mo-
That Calm Red Sea 239
tion picture film, for I was determined to save that
A few minutes later I started below to see how things
were there, and as I was on the stairs the Wisdom struck
bottom with a fiercer jar than usual, and I was thrown
against the banisters. These gave way, and I hurtled
down, landing on my back. I picked myself up gin-
gerly, and cursing crawled to a seat and looked around.
By the dim light of two flickering candles — for the first
shock when we struck had knocked our electric light-
ing plant out of commission — I saw a warlike scene.
Four sawed-ofT shotguns were lined up against a locker,
open boxes of buckshot shell beside them — and flank-
ing these on one side were two sporting rifles, while on
the other was a miscellaneous collection of revolvers
and automatics. Cooper was sprawled on the deck
working over his Thompson gun, a very efficient little
machine gun which shoots from the shoulder, while
Shorty and the Dane were surrounded by film cans,
which they were soldering. And then Shamrock ap-
peared, his eyes bulging with fright, his black skin the
color of dark ashes — he was too scared to realize what
he was doing, but, as this was the usual hour, he was
automatically setting the swinging table for breakfast.
As I watched the men working I considered our pre-
dicament. The Wisdom was still pounding on the sand
bottom — for sand it must be, or she would already have
broken up. I hoped it was low tide, but, even if it was,
there was little chance of finding an opening on the bar
through which to escape to deep water. Also, she was
The Sea Gypsy
already taking in much water, for the pounding had
opened up her seams; and I could hear the steady
rhythm of the pumps now, as Taylor was working the
men above to keep her afloat. The question was to
prepare for her breaking up or becoming stranded. If
we were forced to land, should we make an armed camp
and send the dory the hundred miles down the coast
for help, or should we try to march along the coast our-
selves? Either chance looked pretty bad if the na-
tives lived up to their reputation. And what of the
flickering light on shore? Did that mean hostile
Bedouins already? And what the devil had happened
to that lighthouse, with its brilliant white light flashing
its message of warning 19 miles out to sea? Why
didn't anyone see it?
And even while thinking over these things memory-
flashes of scenes on deck when we struck shot across my
mind. Once more I saw Shamrock, clad only in dirty
long woolen underdrawers, kneeling and praying to
Buddha, yet as he prayed hanging on to the anchor
windlass, that the waves breaking over the deck might
not sweep him over the side; and I heard Big Mac
shouting curses at him, and then saw Mac kick the
crouching Cingalese to his feet, for Shamrock's praying
was demoralizing his two fellows of the galley who
crouched near by. I saw little Johnny grasp the ship's
bell and stop its clamor for a moment ; then he let it go
as he rushed to grasp the downhaul, and again the bell
began clanging loudly with every roll and jar of the
stricken ship. I watched Taylor's sphinx-like counte-
That Calm Red Sea 241
nance show exasperation for once, as a rocket flared up
in his hands and gave only light enough to see his face ;
and I visualized once more that slipping, struggling line
of men heaving desperately on the downhaul.
Every few seconds my thoughts were interrupted by
the heavy crash of the keel on the bottom, followed by
an agonizing unsteady quivering. But gradually the
pounding became less and less. The tide was coming
in as the dawn came slowly creeping up from behind
the grim desert mountains. Then the sun rose round
and red, and on shore I could see figures running back
and forth, and far up the coast line the tip of a mosque
minaret glistening white. The crowd on shore in-
creased; through the glasses we could see a long row of
Arabs squatting like vultures on the sand-dunes.
And still the tide rose. As the sun climbed higher
and higher, lighting up the water, we looked out anx-
iously seeking an opening in the sand bar ; and suddenly
we spotted, there in the line of white breakers which
marked the sand-bank, a bit of blue water. Here was
the thousandth chance, and we took it.
Dresser tried the auxiliary gasoline motor, which we
used in times of necessity, instead of sails. It worked.
Up anchor, and with the lead line measuring our depth
every fifteen seconds we crawled slowly ahead. With
full motor we could just make steerage way.
The bow of the Wisdom poked slowly into the strip
of blue water. Not a sound from anyone. This was
the crucial moment. Then "By the deep three," sang
out Mac from the chains.
242 The Sea Gypsy
Three fathoms of water ; three fathoms, and we draw
only two ! The thousandth chance had won.
Ten seconds more and we were outside — and safe.
Outside the south wind was still blowing strongly, so
we decided, despite the loss of the lead keel and the
open seams in the stern which made us keep the pumps
going almost continually, that, rather than turn back
ignominiously to Aden, we would keep on for Suez.
With that fine south wind we thought we could make it
surely in a few days with the motor, for now the use of
much sail was impossible, for without the keel to balance
her the Wisdom was pretty likely to turn turtle under
It seemed almost with the thought of letting us reach
Suez that the Red Sea became enraged, for the wind
shifted clear around, and blew from the north. And
blew up hard. We could make no headway against it,
but listing far over to starboard the Wisdom seemed to
stay in one spot, pitch nose upward toward the sky and
fall back in the same place again, to repeat the per-
formance when the next wave struck her. And all the
while the men pumped, and pumped, and pumped.
We consulted the chart. Jidda on the coast of
Arabia was the nearest port. So I ordered the Dane to
shut off the motor, and, cautiously hoisting what was
left of the sails, we tacked for that port. We sighted
Jidda at last, and as its tall white houses rose out of the
desert as we approached it seemed a haven of rest to
That Calm Red Sea 243
our weary crew, for at Jidda I had determined to wait
until the wind shifted around and gave us a chance to
beat up to Suez for dry dock and repairs.
At Jidda we found that that supposed 19-mile flash-
ing white light to warn poor mariners from the treacher-
ous coast at Mokha had been extinguished long before
by the Bedouins.
IN THE PORT TO PARADISE
JIDDA is an old, old, decrepit, crowded and dirty
little town. Not a single hotel is to be found there.
Mr. Thomas Cook has no bright young man waiting to
greet tourists. You may search the narrow, crooked
streets from sunrise till dark and never discover a
vendor of picture postcards. There are no theaters, no
parks, no drives, no sports. Indeed a stranger there is
a sort of a prisoner, for the town is surrounded by a high
stone wall outside of which he is forbidden to go without
Yet this queer and unlovely little place rivals South-
ern California and the Riviera in number of visitors.
Hundreds of ships, decks packed with men, women, and
children, sail there each year from distant countries,
and two hundred million people dream all their lives of
making the long sea voyage which terminates at its
The reason for this strange condition is that this
desert town is the port to Mecca, where stands the
House of Allah, the sacred shrine for the Holy Pilgrim-
age of Islam. Thus it is said to be the Port to Paradise.
In the Port to Paradise 247
Accompanied by Taylor, Cooper, McNeil and
Schoedsack, I landed to ask temporary aid while wait-
ing for the North Wind to abate so that we could crawl
on up to Suez. We entered the town through the great
gate which leads directly into the bazaar.
Here was the heart of the Port to Paradise.
In that squalid square and through the little dark
streets teemed the life of all the East — thick-lipped,
shiny-black African slaves; fezzed Turks; ragged wan-
dering dervishes; lepers crawling among the innumer-
able mangy dogs which dozed in the center of the ways ;
turbaned Indians; naked brown boys on donkeys;
black-robed, barefooted women, peering out of the
eye-slits of face masks from which hung rows of silver
and gold and brass coins, and a hundred other types.
But most distinctive of all were the desert Bedouins.
A caravan of hundreds of camels had just come in, and
through these the crowd squirmed and jostled. The
camel men, faces as hard and dry as their sun-baked
plains, cast fierce glances at any who dared to brush
near them. Each carried a curved sword or knife, and
seemed prepared to use it. These men were not the
tall, heavily bearded Arabs of the picture books, but
small, slight men of whipcord and leather, with little
hair on their faces.
And among all this outpouring of the sea and desert —
the dregs left over from many a Mecca pilgrimage and
the native human wolves and jackals who prey on the
pilgrims — we walked, the only Europeans.
We turned down a side street, and went on past
The Sea Gypsy
coffee houses, where immobile Arabs, puffing on great
pipes, regarded us gravely, past cubby-holes of shops
where tinsmiths and sword and pipe makers were work-
ing their metals as their forefathers did a thousand
years ago, and on past stalls, where sat potbellied
merchants guarding their great golden Jaffa oranges,
the rugs, the beads, the robes, the knives, and the
hundred and one trinkets with which the stalls were
loaded. And so came at last out of the bazaar into
the brilliant sunlight.
We found ourselves m a maze of tall, white houses of
four and five and even six stories — skyscrapers of the
East. The houses were made of coral rock and mud
and wood. Not one stood straight. They leaned at
every angle, except heavenward. It looked as if a
good push would tumble the place down as easily as a
child's city of cards.
From the harbor we had seen the flags of England,
France, Italy and Holland floating over the tallest of
the skyscrapers in the northeastern part of the town.
We found the English Consulate, peering out over the
city wall, seemingly just ready to pitch itself into the
desert. It was an immense five-storied building, with a
most dilapidated remnant of garden in front. We
climbed two flights of decaying stairs to meet in the
office above the four Englishmen who composed the
consulate force. The Consul and British Political
Agent was a small, wiry Scotch Major-Doctor, by name
Marshall, who had been one of the fellow officers of
the famous young Colonel Lawrence, whose brilliant
In the Port to Paradise 251
career in the Hejaz has already become romantic
legend. I told Marshall what I wanted. Now, an
English official, as every traveller knows, can be the
most disagreeable chap in the world — or the most de-
cent. Marshall was the latter. He immediately ar-
ranged an audience with the Kaimakan (Governor).
"I'll arrange an audience for you with the Kaimakan,
— that's the Governor, you know," he said.
"Splendid," said I.
Accompanied by an interpreter from the Consulate
we walked over to his house, which was near by. Just
inside the gate to the courtyard a dozen barefoot Arab
soldiers, in black cotton Kamis (a sort of smock or
shirt) held in at the waist by English cartridge belts,
presented arms. A grey-bearded Arab, his silk Kami
flapping about his thick ankles, came trotting down a
flight of wooden stairs which ran down the outside of
the house. This was the Kaimakan. He was a round
little man, with the placid and kindly face of the story
book philanthropist, but who, I afterwards learned, was
the richest and shrewdest merchant in Jidda, and was
said to be worth several million dollars. Also, he was
a ruler in a country where the hand of the law holds al-
ways a sword or whip.
The Kaimakan smiled his benevolent smile; he
salaamed ; so did we. He shook hands all around, and
then led us upstairs into a room carpeted with beautiful
handwoven rugs, but bare of furniture, except for a
little table and two big chairs, and a long divan. The
divan was covered with bright-colored rugs also, and
252 The Sea Gypsy
strewn with silk embroidered pillows. The ceiling
seemed miles above. The absence of the gimcracks
with which we too often clutter up our apartments gave
a singular air of dignity and spaciousness to the room.
A black slave glided in almost immediately with
cigarettes and the inevitable tiny cups of heavily
sweetened coffee. The next five minutes were spent
in exchanging compliments. The Kaimakan told us
how greatly was the town honored, and the Kaimakan
in particular, by the presence of an American yacht in
Jidda, and he spoke at length of the love and friendship
of Arabia for great and noble America. I returned his
compliments in kind. Then he placed workmen and
anything else we needed at our disposal, to repair, if
we wished, some of the damage to our ship. This kind
offer included water, and let me tell you right here that
water is as fine a present as one can give in Jidda. The
rich men of the town import their water clear from
Bombay, and a native of Jidda licks his lips and speaks
of "very sweet water, that" when someone mentions
Bombay water. For water is not only scarce here be-
tween the desert and the salt sea, but the water ob-
tained from these desert wells is as bitter as gall. I
declined the Kaimakan' s offer, but asked permission
to take motion pictures.
Motion pictures. The benevolent smile dropped
from the Kaimakan's face. I explained. The inter-
preter interpreted my explanation. And finally the
Kaimakan gave permission, but with a dubious air, it
seemed to me, for there are no motion pictures in Jidda,
A Sky-Scraper in Jidda
In the Port to Paradise 255
or photographs or paintings either for that matter,
because the Prophet forbade the reproduction of the
human form. As we went down the stairs, 1 saw two
masked ladies peeping out of a door at us.
Xo sooner were we back at the British Consulate
than the Kaimakan called up and said to hold up the
pictures until he could telephone the King at Mecca.
Telephone Mecca! The mystic city, the unknown!
It sounded as if someone was saying: "Wait a minute
until I call up the man in the moon." But the tele-
phone line to the Holy City of Allah was efficient ap-
parently, for a few minutes later the Kaimakan came
back all bows. His round, happy face rippled and
rippled with ever-expanding lines of benevolence.
The King was delighted to hear of our arrival, he
said. Only the presence of a guest — the ex-Sultan of
Turkey, who had arrived a short time before — pre-
vented his coming down from Mecca to receive us in
person. Otherwise he would surely come. But as he
could not with politeness leave the Sultan, he was send-
ing his eldest son, Emir Ali, the Crown Prince, to bid
us welcome. As for any pictures we wished to take,
why, of course. And at our disposal were what guards
we needed, and anything else we wanted. Meanwhile,
would we honor the Kaimakan by our presence at a
reception to be given for us the next day.
The reception was held in the house of Reis el Bile-
diah, the "Lord Mayor" of Jidda; in a big room facing
256 The Sea Gypsy
out on the sea. A guard of mounted Bedouins was
drawn up outside the house to receive us and, standing
in line with these was an Arab brass band, which broke
into a clangorous welcome as we entered the garden
gate. The reception room was set with a score of small
round tables, loaded down with many kinds of cakes
and bottles of pink soda-water. Around these little
tables were fifty or so of the chief Sheiks, officials and
merchants of the town in gorgeous silk robes. Some
of these were miserably dignified, sitting European
fashion, with their feet on the floor, but the others*
tucking their legs up under them and sitting cross-
legged on their chairs, rested quite comfortably. Most
were smoking cigarettes, but several of the older men,
including the Kaimakan slipped every now and then
into a little adjoining room and there puffed happily
away on big water pipes.
With us at the far end of the room were the members
of the European colony, about a dozen in all. The
British numbered six. Besides the four officials there
were two young Scotchmen, who represented a ship-
ping company which also did banking business. But
the bank part was not official, for the King holds that
the Koran forbids banks, though undoubtedly the
Prophet only meant to put the ban on usury.
These six Britishers were the only Europeans in
Jidda who attempted to keep fit. Here they were,
cramped up in a walled town, set on the edge of an un-
friendly desert, and in a climate which inclines all men
to lassitude. Yet they had to have their golf. Catch
In the Port to Paradise 257
an Englishman — or a Scotchman either, for that mat-
ter — missing his golf, no matter where he is. This
little group had wrung a reluctant permission from the
King to go outside the walls for a short distance. Then
they had set up a golf course, by the simple process of
digging nine holes in the desert. And to this desert
golf course all six repaired promptly each day at four
o'clock. There they played at no little risk. Such
was the danger that they were likely at any time to lose
the privilege of playing, on account of the fear of the
King that, even under the shadow of the town walls,
they would be killed by desert Bedouins, probably hired
by some of his political enemies who would wish that
England hold him responsible for the death of her citi-
zens. With the usual passion of their race for clubs,
these six Britishers made this desert golf an excuse for
one — the Hejaz Golf Club. They had also formed an-
other—The Jidda Bridge Club.
At the reception were also the French and Dutch
Consuls, and another Dutchman, a fuzzy-bearded fel-
low, whose customary garb was made up of "shorts"
and an Arab Kunyah (a silk and cotton cloth draped
about the head). This Dutchman, who had come to
Jidda as a poor clerk fourteen years before, was one of
the richest men in the Hejaz. Like everyone else he
made his money out of the pilgrims. He helped to
turn the trick by a turn in faith. Adroitly he changed
over from Christianity to Mohammedanism, and then,
getting the local agency for a number of steamships,
maneuvered his position as one of the Faithful to such
258 The Sea Gypsy
effect that he bagged a goodly part of the pilgrim traf-
fic. Now, for each pilgrim travelling on one of the
ships he represents he gets a small bonus. It is said
that he thus makes a hundred thousand dollars a year.
He has a small yacht, a great house, many slaves, and
has married an Abyssinian wife. I was told that for a
long time he has been anxious to go back to Holland,
but that he has sworn not to go until he has first made
the pilgrimage to Mecca. Each year, for many years,
he has made application to go, and each year the King
has refused to grant permission. So there he stays in
the dirty little Port to Paradise, a millionaire, with no
way to enjoy his money, held a lonely exile by a vow of
the renegade faith which made him rich, longing, I
think, for the cool and pleasant little cities of his tulip
land over the seas.
But to return to the tea party : The most noticeable
thing was the absence of women. Here were fifty of
the most important men of a town at a tea party — or
lemonade and coffee party, if you prefer — and not one of
their women was with them. Imagine an American
tea party with such an attendance ! The only women
there were two Europeans — the only two white
women in Jidda — and a Christian Syrian, a warm-
skinned, black-eyed beauty. One of the European
women was the Irish wife of the Dutch Consul;
the other was a Russian, one of those fair, tall,
blue-eyed creatures, who, when you do find them in the
Ukraine, are lovely beyond all comparison. The hus-
band of the young Russian woman, a black-bearded
A Water Carrier of the East
In the Port to Paradise 261
cripple, with a deep saber scar, received while fighting
the Bolsheviks with Denekin, running down his fore-
head and between his eyes. :h her. He was the
chief and only engineer of the Hejaz Air Force, winch
is made up of Russians. The Air Force is composed
■::" :hree :~: rs "h: are -.his zz.zir.z~z and :~: r 1 : - s .
and a mechanic for each of the latter. The pilots were
not present at the reception, because, as I afterwards
learned, the poor fellows were ashamed of their shabby
ci::h/inr — :h / were zz/z.z :n a miserable -i::ar.:e.
The Russians lived in a long, two-storied baildmg of
coral rock on the water front. I have said that Jidda
is old — old beyond history. Well, this house must have
dated with the Pyramids and the Sphinx. It was an old
z.zz :: z. h: use in a :i:y :;' nvhlenaran 'z.zzzzS The s::r.e
s:e;s --ere zvrvei like : :~ s ever/ s::re :: :he "alls
appeared as if it would crumble at the touch; the
dust of the ages lay a foot deep in the arched alley-Eke
entrance. It had formerly been used as a warehouse, I
Z zrs.z-z and his y:i-.; wife reeunied a
zzzz r: : :n ~\z::'z. s:re::hef ilea: anss ::•: s hie :: the
• . . .... . ._ -_..
rusty iron bedsteads, hung with tattered mosquito
: :hree r.var.: n ihars and a
table, seemed to be lost in the gloomy and vast space
::' :ne erf ::" :he zharzb-er. An ureruhar r:w ;f nans
::r.;-: in :e:"-een :h- :-s ::' :he s::nes
anf : . :: : ;.:.'-.
262 The Sea Gypsy
single woman's dress of cotton, a pair of patched
trousers, and a few articles of underwear hung thus
before my eyes. Pitiful wall pictures they made for a
Nevertheless, the Russian girl, sitting before the rude
table, poured tea out of a tin teapot into heavy glasses
as graciously as if she were serving from a silver samovar
in her own spacious country house in the Ukraine, a
house, which, if it still existed, she knew she would
never dwell in again. She and one of our party who
called on her talked of golden Kiev in the spring, and
she told charming tales of the old life on the Russian
Riviera, down in the Crimea on the borders of the Black
Sea, and we talked of music and opera books.
Then said the American, quite carelessly, "And
what pleasure can you find in living here?"
And with that he would have bitten his tongue out,
for what could life offer her — a cultured woman, of an
indolent and pleasure-loving race and caste — in the
far-off, dirty, Arab town?
But the Russian woman said quite simply, "I have
my husband here."
The two Russian pilots lived in the other big room
of the building. One was a heavy-set fellow who had
been a non-commissioned officer, and the second, a
quick-moving, little chap of thirty-odd, an ex-Colonel
in the Imperial Army and a former landed proprietor.
The Colonel had come to Jidda the previous month.
Previously he had been riding as a jockey in Cairo, but
had grown too heavy, had lost his job, and when abso-
In the Port to Paradise 263
lutely penniless, had heard of a chance to fly in the Air
Service of the King of the Hejaz, and had taken it.
The little Colonel was extremely shabby, and did not
have a regular flying suit. He flew in a ragged old
winter suit of blue serge, very frayed and spotted, and
this suit he was also forced to wear at the reception of
the King, for it was indeed his only one. But he
seemed totally undisturbed. He had the air of the
typical dashing officer of cavalry, for such he had been
before he entered the aviation corps, and was not less
the great gentleman in the rags and tatters than he had
been in his splendid uniform of the Imperial Guard.
It was the little Colonel who took "Shorty" Schoed-
sack for an air trip over Jidda, and enabled him to make
the only aerial pictures of the city which have ever
The flying field was only a strip of the desert down
near the water's edge and just outside the city walls.
The aeroplanes of the Kingdom of the Hejaz which
were then in operation consisted of two English biplane
machines of an obsolete type and two old French train-
ing machines. On these latter the Russians were
endeavoring to instruct some Arab officers in the art
of air pilotage. Despite the reputation of the Arabs
for daring horsemanship, the officers were not making
much progress as airmen. None of them had yet
graduated. Occasionally the little Colonel and
his companion flew over the desert to insurgent
camps or villages and bombed them into submis-
sion. The air job of the Russians was not to be
The Sea Gypsy
envied, for a forced landing among the Bedouins of
the desert meant certain death.
As one wanders about the world one comes upon
these Russian exiles in every kind of queer place and
working at equally queer occupations. They teach
languages at the palaces of Indian potentates; they
breed horses for African monarchs; pick grapes in the
vineyards of the Gironde; dig in the ditches of Aus-
tralia ; rake in gold as croupiers in the gambling dens of
Cairo; and gasp out life's last breath on the sands of the
Sahara where they have fallen fighting in the foreign
legions of France and Spain. They are in exactly the
same position as the emigres of the French aristocracy
after the French Revolution. Trained to do nothing
but be fine gentlemen, they have suddenly found them-
selves cast bodily into a cold outside world where the
profession of being a gentleman has ceased to be lucra-
tive. So they turn their hands to anything that gives
bread — or die. The number of suicides among the
Russian exiles is enormous.
''Better to die an aristocrat than live like a swine,"
one of them once told me in commenting on a comrade
of his who had blown out his brains.
Voila, the Russian exiles.
A PRINCE OF ISLAM
I7ARLY in the morning after the reception given us
by the Governor of Jidda, I was informed that
the Crown Prince, the Emir Ali, had arrived from
Mecca, and was waiting to receive me.
He was staying at his house, which looked out over
the town wall to the sea. It was a four-storied building
without a garden. When I arrived there, accompanied
by one of the British Vice-Consuls, fastened to the post
near the door were two of the small but beautiful
horses for which Arabia has ever been noted. These
were gorgeously caparisoned in harness and blankets
of purple and gold. Always two such horses are ready
saddled for the Prince. On either side of the door were
two black-robed soldiers, who came to attention; and,
as we entered, we saw, sitting on a bench just inside
the doorway, half a dozen Bedouin nobles, fierce,
harsh-looking men, all armed with gold and silver
scabbarded swords, fit guards for a King's son in truth.
A black Major-domo led us up a steep flight of stairs
to the second floor, and there ushered us into a waiting
The Sea Gypsy
room. Almost immediately a spectacled, clean shaven
Arab entered and was introduced to me by the Vice-
Consul as Sheikh Fuad El-Khatich, Secretary of State.
He acknowledged the introduction with a few courteous
words in excellent English, then led the way up to the
next floor, where he removed his sandals at a doorway
draped with a silken curtain. He pushed this aside,
then bowed as a sign for us to enter.
Seated on a divan at one end of a long room was a
slim, somber figure clad in a dark kamis. Under a
simple white kuflyah (head-dress) the man's face
showed narrow and hollow-cheeked, the chin hidden
by a short, black beard touched with grey. The fore-
head was finely shaped, but covered with a network
of wrinkles, and these seemed to deepen as he rose and
stretched out his hand with a brisk gesture. The face
was that of an aesthetic thinker, but the energetic move-
ment bespoke the man of action as well. This was, of
course, the Emir Ali, Crown Prince of the Hejaz.
The Emir Ali possibly has a great future before him.
He is the eldest son and successor of King Hussein ; and
if the Crown Prince shows the strength and cleverness of
his aged father, it is possible (though extremely doubt-
ful) that he may be the future leader of all the three
hundred millions of Islam. King Hussein has already
climbed high toward that position. By birth — for he is
the most direct descendant of the Prophet — he inherited
the position of Sherif of Mecca, the guardian of the
Ka'abah, which is the House of Allah and the holy
shrine of Mecca. But this position was, after all, only
A Prince of Islam 267
a religious one, for the Sultan of Turkey, realizing the
importance of having a firm grip on the place of the
Pilgrimage, always kept a Turkish Governor and a
strong garrison at Mecca. This rankled in the heart
of the men, whose family has always claimed the title
of King of All the Arabs. So when the Sultan, as Caliph,
issued a call for a "Holy War" King Hussein denied
the Sultan's right to the Caliphate, and, declaring
that the war was not a holy one, chose as his slogan
"Arabia, free and united," and entered the ranks of the
During the war he and his sons, the Emirs, AH,
Abdallah, Feisal and Zeid, were the leaders of the Arabs
against the Turks. When the Germans and Turks
went down in defeat he expected that the Allies would
recognize his claim for a free and united Arabia, with
Hussein as its King; and it has been repeatedly stated
that the British signed some treaty with him which
contained some such promise. That instead he was
only acknowledged as King of the Hejaz, made him
bitter. The giving of the questionable governorship
of Transjordania to his son, the Emir Abdallah, did
little to relieve that bitterness. And the final drop of
gall was the acquiescence of the British to the action
of the French army in driving the Emir Feisal from
the throne of Syria. That the British have since made
Feisal a sort of pseudo-king of Mesopotamia has not
relieved King Hussein's injured feelings. In fact, since
the loss of Syria, he has regarded the British as "men
who speak with mud in their mouths" (I do not quote
268 The Sea Gyspy
him for that expression, but it came from a reliable
source), that is, as violators of sacred pledges.
It is a matter of the most intense interest to the
Moslem world to know what are the aims of the Sherif-
ian family as a result of all this strife. So Cooper one
day asked the Emir Ali quite plainly what did he and
his father want.
"We want and intend to have a united Arabia," the
"Including Syria?" Cooper asked.
"Yes, including Syria," said the Prince.
"How will you take it from the French? By force
of arms? By war?"
The Prince thought for a moment before he responded
to this question ; then with eyes flashing his emotion, he
"Now" — and whether the Prince meant to empha-
size that word of now, the Secretary of State, who was
interpreting, emphasized it. "Now it is impossible
for us to take Syria by war. But all Arabia sees that
conditions are rapidly changing in Europe. We
Arabians firmly believe that the day is not far off when
European nations must give up their rule of the coun-
tries of the East. Syria will be freed of the French
That answer was repeated in substance again and
again by other Arabs with whom we talked — sheikhs,
soldiers and merchants. They all believe that the
day of European domination in the East is fast coming
to a close. They think that England will be swept
■Mm - '
A Street in Jidda
A Prince of Islam 271
from India, Africa and Arabia, and that the French
and Dutch are hanging on to their colonies with a
feeble and ever-weakening grasp. They believe that
the dream of a united and dominant Islam is drawing
near to reality. And it must not be forgotten that by
their religion they are ordered to resist by force of
arms the domination of peoples of other faith. The
undying voice of the Prophet calls them to war. They
fail to obey that order only because they realize that
for the moment they lack the strength to push their
enemies into the seas.
If such a war ever comes it may well be that that
slim, aesthetic man with the brow of a thinker, will be
its leader (though he told me that Arabia needed peace
and quiet, and that his people were tired of war). For
now we come to what I believe, as do far, far more
experienced and competent observers in the East, to
be the real ambition of King Hussein. I think that he
intends to try to make himself the Caliph of Islam.
I was anxious to find out what part the deposed
Sultan of Turkey (the former Caliph) was to play in
this plan of King Hussein's, for it seemed strange in
truth that the King of the Hejaz should be receiving as
his honored guest one of his former bitterest enemies.
Therefore we asked the Emir Ali :
"Do you consider the ex-Sultan as Caliph of Islam,
or do you hold that the Angora-Assembly-made Caliph
rightly holds the title?"
"Neither one nor the other," he responded. "The
Turks have no right to choose a Caliph for all Islam.
The Sea Gypsy
The Caliph can only be chosen by all the Moslem
peoples. At present there is none."
No Caliph of Islam now. Right. And meanwhile
King Hussein plans, I think, first to make a united
Arabia, with himself at its head. Then, with this as
the military power, to use both it and his own great
religious influence as the Sherif of Mecca to have him-
self declared Caliph.
The Emir Ali paid a return visit aboard the Wisdom
the next afternoon. Before he arrived a dhow came
alongside loaded with foodstuffs. It was sunk low in
the water, with watermelons, pumpkins, egg-plants,
bags of rice and sugar, and buckets of butter piled high
above the gunnels; and crowded in one end of the boat
were six bleating sheep. The Arabs began calmly to
heave these things up onto our deck. I was about to
shout to them to stop, for I had ordered nothing like
this ashore, when their leader came aboard and, with
many salaams, told me that all the abundance was a
gift from the Emir Ali.
An hour afterwards, one of Jidda's three launches,
carrying the Prince, accompanied by a dozen high
officials, came alongside. When we saw the Prince at
his house at other times, as on our first visit, he wore
simple and almost somber robes, but on this occasion
his dress was magnificent. His head was covered with
a silk kufiyah of grey. A gorgeous purple silk kamis,
heavily embroidered with gold, hung to his feet. Over
A Prince of Islam 273
this he wore a rich light-grey cloak, open in front.
Around his waist was a wide belt, also embroidered in
gold; and the belt held a short, curved dagger, the most
beautiful I have ever seen, so finely chased was its
scabbard and hilt of gold and silver. On his left hand
was a diamond ring worth a small fortune. He looked,
indeed, the Prince of a right Royal House.
His attendants were also splendidly attired. The
Chief Sheikh of the Bedouins, a lithe, little man, with
dark and piercing eyes, a small, straight nose, and thin
lips, rivaled his Prince in the richness of his apparel.
Only two of our visitors were wearing semi-European
clothing. One of these was the Minister of Air, Colonel
Rushdi. His fat, short figure was covered with a field
uniform like that of an English officer, but he too wore
the Arabian kufiyah head-dress. I smiled inwardly
when I saw the followers of the Prince come trooping
up the gangway after their aesthetic-appearing leader,
for they were nearly all like Colonel Rushdi, ridiculously
plump. As I looked at them I could understand why
the hard-bodied and flat-bellied Bedouins of the desert
hold them in such small esteem ; and I remembered how
Sir Richard Burton, during his famous trip to Mecca in
disguise, gained the friendship of a hardy old man of
the plains by singing for him a Bedouin song ridiculing
soft -living town sheikhs.
Maysunah, the beautiful young Bedouin wife of the
rich and powerful but city-bred and bodily fat and soft
Caliph Muawiyah is supposed to be singing. She
274 The Sea Gypsy
"Oh take these purple robes away,
Give back my robes of camel's hair,
And bear me from this tow 'ring pile
To where the Black tents flap i' the air.
The camel's colt with fait 'ring tread,
The dog that bays at all but me
Delight me more than ambling mules—
Than every art of minstrelsy,
And any cousin, poor but free,
Might take me, fatted ass! from thee."
The East changes not its heart. So sing to-day the
Bedouins in scorn of the soft-bodied ministers of the
There were not enough chairs on the little Wisdom
to seat all this distinguished party, so Taylor, McNeil
and Schoedsack perched on the engine room hatch,
while Shamrock, our Ceylonese messboy, served coffee
and cigarettes and an even viler brand of lemonade
than we had had at the reception ashore.
The conversation was somewhat awkward and hesitat-
ing at first, as only the Secretary of State spoke English,
and as none of us knew a word of Arabic. I wished might-
ily that our guests' religion would permit them to imbibe
a few rounds of more potent drinks to liven things up a
little. After a bit, however, the natural ease and gra-
ciousness of the Prince took away the slight mutual
embarrassment of both parties, and soon the Minister
of Air was asking for more ragtime records on the vic-
trola. Before our guests left I presented the Prince
with a sporting rifle, and the next day he sent me a
dagger, a duplicate of the one he had worn on the ship.
A Prince of Islam 275
A day or two after the visit of the Crown Prince to
the Wisdom I went to see the tomb of Mother Eve,
which lies in the desert just outside the town walls.
It is in the center of a small graveyard, surrounded by
a low wall. Eve was apparently a lady of sufficient
size to mother all the human race, for her grave is
several hundred feet long. Three domes mark the
position of her head, feet, and navel, and two low walls,
a yard or so apart, connect them. Burton recounts
that he remarked to his travelling companion, the boy
Mohammed, that Eve must have been shaped like a
duck, for she measures, according to the placing of the
domes, 120 paces from head to waist and 80 from waist
to heel. Whereupon that youth replied flippantly
"that he thanked his stars the Mother was under-
ground, otherwise that men would lose their senses with
fright." We found that the tomb was not regarded
with great respect by the Mahommedans, and why
should it be (Islam would ask), for after all, it is only
the tomb of a woman, even if she was the mother of
mankind. The attendants of the tomb are women also.
A ragged old one showed us around, and ended her
pious office by extending a very dirty hand and whining
The four days for 1923 when the rites of the pilgrim-
age are celebrated were set for July, but, already when
we were in Jidda (this in February) the pilgrims had
begun to come in. A boat, carrying several hundred
Javanese pilgrims, anchored a quarter of a mile from
The Sea Gypsy
the Wisdom. The pilgrims were brought ashore in a long
line of dhows — it looked like race day at a yachting
club — and were received on the docks by a committee
of Arab officials representing the Sherif. The little
yellow Javanese, dressed in gaudy colors, and bare of
leg and breast, huddled together — men, women and
children — like frightened immigrants at Ellis Island.
It may have been that they looked thus, what of awe
at the idea that they were at last on the sacred soil
where the Prophet's feet had touched, and what of the
fact that they were now only forty miles from the
House of Allah; but it seemed to me that their fright
was due to the Arab petty officials, who hustled them
about roughly in the manner of petty officials the world
The group of Javanese spent one night in Jidda,
being distributed around in bare rooms in some of the
big tumbledown houses, for, as I have written, there
are no hotels in Jidda, despite the huge influx of pil-
grims each year. The next day we watched them pass
out the Mecca gate in one long caravan. The wealthiest
pilgrims were riding in covered platforms resting on
camels' backs — desert sedans, in fact. The poorer pil-
grims rode asses or walked.
There are many tales of the dangers of the forty mile
desert trip from Jidda to Mecca that these Javanese
had to make to complete the long journey. The route
is protected by a line of block-houses, several miles
apart and garrisoned by soldiers of the King. I was
told that Bedouin robbers rode near the lines, and took
A Prince of Islam 279
pot shots at stragglers from the caravans. If the
robbers brought down their human game, they dashed
in, looted the body, and escaped back to the desert.
I was also informed that in certain passes the Sheikhs
of Bedouin tribes held up caravans and forced the pil-
grims to pay toll. These bandits rob after the fashion
of Robin Hood, taking only a few piastres from the
poor but making the rich pay heavily.
We asked Emir Ali about this, and he admitted that
such a condition had existed in the time of the rule of
the Turks, but declared that, now the country was
under Arab control, the King had managed to keep
the caravan route to Mecca clear of bandits. This is
quite likely the truth, for many people say that King
Hussein has used the large gold subsidy paid him by
the British until a few months ago to buy off the
Bedouins. This is quite in keeping with his reputation
of a clever politician, for, if it is a fact that his ambition
is to be Caliph of Islam, his best bet is to gain the friend-
ship of the pilgrims. Especially is this so, as it is well
known that each year, during the pilgrimage, the
leaders of every Mahommedan country, or their repre-
sentatives, hold secret meetings in Mecca to discuss
ways and means of spreading the Faith and for strength-
ening its power.
For the trip to Mecca the Javanese pilgrims were
required to wear pilgrim dress. This dress is restricted
to two white pieces of cloth, or towels, one thrown over
the shoulders, and the other fastened about the waist.
Not even a hat or sandals is permitted pilgrims. They
280 The Sea Gypsy
are required to garb themselves thus so that both rich
and poor shall come to the Holy Shrine of the One God
as equals — looking like equals anyway.
Since coming to Port Said (where I am now writing
this article) I recounted to a man who has been long in
the East what we have seen of the pilgrimage. Then
he asked : "And what kind of ceremonies do the pilgrims
have to go through before Mahomet's tomb in Mecca?"
I thought at first that he was joking, but I have since
found that almost all Europeans and Americans think
that the tomb of Mahomet is really at Mecca. Of
course this is incorrect. Mahomet is buried in Medina,
and the pilgrimage is made to Mecca to the Ka'abah,
the sacred shrine of the One God, to which pilgrimages
were made long before the birth of the Prophet. The
Prophet simply destroyed the idols, which had been put
up in Mecca, and declared that Mecca should be the
place of pilgrimage for the true believers in the one
God. Adam is supposed to have first built the Ka'abah.
It has been rebuilt nine times, once by Abraham, ac-
cording to Arab history.
Mecca, despite its holy shrine, is reputed to be one
of the most corrupt cities in the East. Its people are
addicted to the lowest forms of Eastern vices — too
vicious for me to describe here. Major Wavell, the
famous young English traveller, one of the dozen or so
white men, who, during the last hundred years, have
managed to visit Mecca in disguise at the risk of their
lives, has written of how in the very shadow of the
sacred temple, one dignified hypocritical old Meccan
A Prince of Islam 283
tried to sell him photographs depicting the kind of
things which take place only in the worst kind of dives,
these photographs having been taken in the Holy City
It seems to be the general impression in Christian
countries that every Mohammedan is required to make
the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is not so. Mahomet
left specific directions that only those who could well
afford the trip should make it. However, so great is
the desire of thousands of poor men to be "Hajis,"
as those who have made the pilgrimage are called, that
as soon as they have saved the bare expenses of the
trip, they desert their families and make for Mecca.
Every year many of them, either because of the rapacity
of the Meccans or due to the fact that they have to wait
months for a steamer to leave, become stranded in
Jidda. The Indian Government (or Islam Church in
India) has a special fund to take care of these poor
pilgrims, and sometimes the number sent back by this
fund amounts to thousands. The Dutch Consul also
told me that he also often has to ship thousands of
impoverished pilgrims back to Netherland Indies.
But many remain in Jidda.
Outside of the walls of Jidda is a desert village made
of sticks and rags. We called it " Rag-bag-Town." At
the sight of us, when we walked through it, half naked
negroes dodged into their tiny huts like rabbits into
holes. These blacks are former pilgrims from the West
coast of Africa. They walked clear across the African
Continent on the pilgrimage, enduring from two to five
The Sea Gypsy
years of hardship and toil to make the trip. Now they
form part of the flotsam of the Moslem world that has
been left stranded in Jidda, and which help to make it
one of the strangest cities of the East.
The presence of these negroes, who had endured so
much at the call of the Prophet, gives some idea of how
strongly does the Faith of Islam grip the hearts of
black and brown and yellow peoples. These peoples
are increasing at a rate far greater than that of the
whites. And it is well for us to remember that the
strong and militant church of Islam is ever spreading
and spreading, and that some day the white race may
have to face that militant faith in a militant way.
THE LAST LANDFALL OF THE SEA GYPSY
T^HIS chapter was to have been a long one. It was to
have told about how the Wisdom was repaired,
and how she triumphantly went through the Medi-
terranean, sailed across the Atlantic, and arrived back
in America with her strange and picturesque crew,
after circumnavigating the globe. Indeed, it was to
have been the longest chapter in the book. But,
instead, I fear it will be the shortest — I doubt if it will
cover much more than this page — and the tale it will
tell will be quite different from the one I had planned.
For ten days we waited at Jidda, and the thrice-
cursed Red Sea wind still blew from the north, and we
could not venture out to sea. Then as the wind still
continued, on the eleventh day we hired an old native
pilot and, sailing by day and anchoring at night, the
Wisdom painfully crept up the inland passage within
the reefs toward Suez. It took us ten more days to
cover four-fifths of the distance, for it turned out that
the pilot, who spent most of his time trying to convert
us to Mohammedanism, only knew a part of the way;
The Sea Gypsy
then we picked up a coast fisherman, and when his
knowledge failed felt our way along with a lead line.
And all this time the wind blew steadily from the
North, preventing the Wisdom, in her crippled condi-
tion, from coming out from behind the protection of
the reefs. At last, when only a few miles from Suez the
wind shifted dead around and, for the first time, since
we had been wrecked over three weeks before, it blew
from the South. Oh, that thrice-cursed contrary Red
Sea! At Suez we found it was impossible to get the
ship repaired as we wished and half the crew fell ill
from a fever contracted on the Arabian coast — so we
waited two weeks more for them to get well, and finally,
leaving Old Joe the Malay to be shipped home, and
hiring a couple of Greeks, we took a chance and sailed
for Italy. Luck was now with us, and we made port in
Savona in Italy and prepared to go in dry dock.
We rented a charming Italian Villa some two miles
from the town ; it was Spring, and here in northern Italy
the Spring was beautiful beyond compare. Oh, we
were going to have a wonderful time there while the
Wisdom was made seaworthy. Then, Westward Ho
for America !
We moved to the villa, leaving aboard one of the
Greeks that evening for night watchman. The next
morning we were awakened by the excited local ship
"Your ship, she burn!"
He rushed us to the water-front in his automobile.
But we had come too late. There, out in the stream,
The Last Landfall of the Sea Gypsy 289
where the night before had been the little Wisdom, still
white and graceful and lovely despite her long wander-
ings and many late bufferings, was a hulk all smoke
The sea gypsy had made her last landfall.